MGH Food Services Team with patient, caregiver and community advisors from East Toronto Health Partners’ (ETHP) advisory network.
Members of Michael Garron Hospital's Food Services Team with patient, caregiver and community advisors from East Toronto Health Partners’ (ETHP) caregiver advisory network.

MGH launches new halal menu for inpatients to help deliver more culturally inclusive care

Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) has launched a new halal menu to better cater to the dietary needs of the diverse patients it serves. The menu is now available to inpatients at MGH. 

The menu’s launch is a direct result of feedback from patient, caregiver and community advisors in East Toronto. These are individuals who have lived experiences finding and receiving care in the local health system. They provide feedback to healthcare organizations to help improve programs and services for patients and their loved ones. 

Khadija Nakhuda, a caregiver advisor in East Toronto who contributed feedback to the development of the halal menu at MGH, says the availability of a halal menu is especially important for patients who follow a halal diet but may not speak English as a first language. 

“Communicating the need for a halal meal can be particularly challenging for these individuals, so having this readily available menu at the hospital as something they can select makes a great difference,” Khadija says. 

While MGH previously offered some halal options to inpatients, the new halal menu offers a more comprehensive and dedicated way for the Food Services Team to meet the needs of inpatients who follow a halal diet.

The menu is offered alongside other food options that cater to individuals with specific dietary restrictions, such as vegetarian, low-sodium and gluten-free.

This helps MGH advance its goal of designing and delivering equitable and culturally inclusive care. It also demonstrates the hospital’s continued commitment to collaborating with patients, caregivers and community partners. 

Maria O'Connell, Manager Food Services standing smiling.
Maria O’Connell, Manager of Food Services at MGH.

“There’s more to food than just nutrients. For some, it embodies health, culture and tradition,” says Maria O’Connell, Manager of Food Services at MGH.  

“By listening to the feedback we’ve received and implementing change, we’re able to build a healthcare system that reflects what's truly important to our patients.” 

Serving the diverse MGH community 

The availability of a halal menu at MGH is especially important because a large portion of the community the hospital serves is made up of people from countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Syria, as indicated by data from the Canadian Council on Social Development and Statistics Canada. In these countries, it is common for people to follow the Muslim faith. As part of this faith many individuals adhere to a halal diet. 

Understanding the cultural and religious significance of halal practices for community members ensures that everyone, regardless of their cultural or religious background, can find suitable and respectful food choices when seeking care at MGH. 

Collaborating with community members 

MGH Food Services team standing smiling.
MGH’s Food Services Team.

MGH’s Food Services Team worked with patient, caregiver and community advisors from East Toronto Health Partners’ (ETHP) advisory network to develop and introduce the halal menu. This includes individuals from ETHP’s Community Advisory Council and Caregiver Advisory Group.

After hearing feedback from this group that indicated a dedicated halal menu would help improve care experiences for some inpatients, Maria organized a number of meetings with the advisors to develop a strategy for implementing the menu at MGH. 

The strategy included elements such as providing education to Food Services staff to ensure food is sourced and prepared appropriately and so adaptations could be made to halal dishes, where needed. It was also important to ensure the Food Services Team could effectively communicate information about the halal menu and respond to halal food requests from inpatients. 

“The advisors were overwhelmingly positive about the plan,” Maria says. 

As part of this engagement, Maria and her team invited the advisors to tour MGH’s kitchen facilities last fall. During the tour, the advisors had the opportunity to see the space and meet members of the Food Services Team who are playing a part in the rollout and preparation of the new halal menu items.  

“People in the community trust us as advisors,” Khadija says. “By building a relationship with the MGH Food Services Team, this helps community members further trust MGH.” 

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