Overlook Medical Center and The Valley Hospital have
established rooftop apiaries.
hospitals in north central New Jersey, working independently, have taken the
same approach to sustainability by adding bee hives at their facilities. The
goal at both hospitals—Overlook Medical Center in Summit and The Valley Hospital
in Ridgewood—is the same: to promote the use of local foods, help support a
dwindling bee population and create some opportunities for retail sales.
Dawn Cascio, director of food and nutrition services at Valley, says the
hospital installed two colonies of bees—about 20,000 bees in total—on the roof
of the healthcare system’s Lucklow Pavilion in Paramus, about a mile from the
“The hospital is trying to be as green as possible and this fits in with our
goals for sustainability,” Cascio says. Valley is one of about 500 hospitals
that are part of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, and this project is part of
Cascio says purchasing the bees cost the hospital “less than 1% of our
overall food budget,” adding that her administrators were more receptive to the
idea than she expected. The biggest challenge actually came from the hospital’s
legal department, which wanted to make sure there were no unresolved liability
issues before giving Cascio the go-ahead.
At the start of the project, the bees are being fed sugar water, which they
will use to create the beeswax that supports the hive. Once the hive is
established, the bees will fly out in search of plants from which they
would extract nectar. Where the bees forage will determine the flavor of the
honey, Cascio adds.
The bees—which are expected to number about 60,000 by the end of the
season—are expected to produce about 100 pounds of honey this year. Of that, 30
pounds will be harvested. The rest will be left for the bees to feed on over the
winter. Much of the harvest will be used in patient foodservice, with the rest
being packaged and sold in the hospital gift shop.
“We will use honey in a lot of our sauces, dressings and desserts, as well as
infused waters,” Cascio says. “Our chef, Joseph Graziano, likes to balance the
sweet and savory in his dishes.”
When Cascio was planning her project, one of the people with whom she spoke
was Michael Atanasio, manager of food and nutrition at Overlook Medical Center.
“Michael thought it was a cool idea,” she says—so cool, he decided to follow
“I try to stay connected in the industry, and everyone here, including our
president, is very committed to the environment,” Atanasio says. “I knew Dawn
was doing this and I had also seen it in trade magazines.”
Overlook’s two hives sit on a lower roof of the hospital, one that is level
with the building’s cafeteria. In addition to customers being able to see the
beehives while they enjoy a meal, Atanasio has set up a webcam so people can
also log in to watch the bees.
Like Cascio, Atanasio expects to incorporate part of his harvest into a
variety of recipes. He also plans to sell some in the gift shop and he wants to
use beeswax to create a lip balm and lotion, which he also will sell at retail
“This can also be a cool tool for education,” he adds. “We want to set up
some community projects like bringing kids up to see the bees. My goal is to add
at least one hive per year until I run out of space.”
In addition to supplying the two hospitals with honey, Overlook’s and
Valley’s projects may serve another purpose: to help repopulate the species.
Since 2006, honeybees have been dying off in large numbers for unknown
TAKEN FROM FOOD SERVICE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE