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Some Compass food is prepared in Auckland and trucked south frozen to be reheated.
There have been complaints the food is bland, watery, visually unappealing and sometimes inedible.
The Real Food Coalition planned to re-create some of the meals on the Compass menu using locally procured ingredients and local staff, spokeswoman Anna Huffstutler said during a food protest meeting in Invercargill yesterday.
‘‘They can cook theirs and we will cook ours and see whose is better. If they don't want to be part of it, we will re-create the meals anyway.''
An estimated 300 people attended a rally outside Dunedin Hospital on Friday.
The Invercargill meeting attracted about 35 people, 10 of them speakers or politicians.
‘‘Southlanders just don't like coming out [to meetings like these],'' Ms Huffstutler said afterwards.
‘‘The turnout here most certainly isn't reflected in the support we have online and in the media through letters to the paper. Sometimes it is about quality, not quantity, and the people who were here were really passionate.''
The coalition is demanding the Southern District Health Board cancel its 15-year food service contract with Compass.
Mary Campbell, of Invercargill, told the meeting she was a ‘‘frequent visitor'' to Southland Hospital and carried a large photograph of a piece of quiche she could not eat.
‘‘The nurse who served it to me actually apologised ... I looked at it and looked at it. Finally, because I was hungry, I took a bite. It was totally inedible. It was like rubber.
‘‘I have friends with animals who feed their animals better than [that]. Bring back the locally sourced food that people can eat.''
Invercargill deputy mayor Darren Ludlow said while hospital food was not supposed to be fine dining, it was supposed to be nutritious and appetising.
‘‘All we want is something appetising and fresh.''
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt echoed that.
‘‘Good, nutritious Kiwi tucker is what we are battling for.''