Army, Navy hospital consolidation nearly complete

Published in Healthcare Spotlight

Foodservice at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is undergoing a two-part renovation.

By 
Paul King, Editor

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

When the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRCC) released its recommendations in 2005, military bases weren’t the only facilities on the list. Also on the list was the famed Water Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., which BRCC recommended closing, while consolidating operations with the National Navy Medical Center (NNMC), in Bethesda, Md.

In November 2011, the merger was complete and the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, located on the old site of the NNMC, was born. The main facility of the consolidated venture is a 261-bed hospital. The hospital complex is a joint services facility for the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force.

Now, nearly three years later, the conversion of the hospital’s nutrition services department is nearly complete. Army Col. Melanie Craig, director of nutrition services, says the medical center is in the design phase of a cafeteria renovation that will bring new stations and more healthy options to the 500-seat dining room. Café 8901, as it will be called, is expected to open this summer.

“This will be a totally new retail operation for us,” Craig says. “We’re going to be able to offer freshly baked brick oven pizza, a larger rotisserie and a grab-and-go area.” In addition, the department plans to bring back such customer favorites as World Bistro; Fit and Flavorful, which offers meals comprising 550 calories or less; and a panini station.

“What will be huge is our performance station,” she adds. “This is a salad bar that will be a race track-looking thing. The front of it will have induction burners where cooks can grill chicken, beef, vegetables, tofu or whatever that you can put on top of your salads. Each side of the bar will have all of the salad items. It will be one of the first things people see when they enter the servery.”

As part of the renovation, Café 8901 will introduce the new Go for Green program endorsed by the Department of Defense’s Food and Nutrition Subcommittee.

“Go for Green is designed for the military community to help customers choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages,” Craig says. “Everyday foods that enhance performance, readiness, health and well-being will be labeled green. Foods that are a good source of vitamins, minerals and overall nutrition but have some added fats and/or sugar will be labeled yellow. Low-performance foods that should be eaten only occasionally and have the highest amounts of fat and sugar will be labeled red.” The dining area will be open continuously from 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., although not all stations will be open at all times.

“Our grab-and-go area, which we’re calling Café 8901 Express, will have a grill,” she explains. “We will use that space for [late-night hours]. This will be nice for residents and interns, as well as for those patients who didn’t get a meal because they were in surgery or weren’t feeling well. Nurses will be able to come down and pick something up for them.”

The first phase of the renovation, which was completed in February, was an overhaul of the patient kitchen, which hadn’t been renovated since the 1970s. The new kitchen now allows staff to run a complete cook-to-order room service program.

“Prior to that, we were running room service, but it was very makeshift,” Craig says, noting that the NNMC had not offered room service until the consolidation. “It really was a regular trayline that we turned into room service, so not all foods could be made to order.”