The Big Idea 2014: The purée alternative

 

       

Stone Morris and Sarah Gorham
Co-founders
Grind Dining, Atlanta

Gorham: The Arbor Co., operators of senior living units based in Atlanta, hired us last year as consultants to come up with a solution for residents who have chewing or cognitive disorders and cannot use utensils when they eat.

Morris: We had never been involved with senior care, but Mary Campbell Jenkins, Arbor’s VP of operations, knew we were chefs and asked if we could help. Sarah went in and did an observation, and what she saw was disheartening and depressing. The solution, for most people with such problems, was simply soft foods: scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, etc. We thought that with 60 years in foodservice collectively, surely we could come up with something. But it would have to be simple, streamlined for production and easy for semiskilled labor and nutritionally complete.

I had a memory of my great-grandmother grinding up fish with a meat grinder to make gefilte fish. It had body and texture, and you could feed it to toddlers. So we bought a grinding attachment for our mixer and three chickens and went to work.

Gorham: We focused on breakfast, lunch and dinner entrées and sides. Desserts, we found, were not a problem. We developed some foods and we piloted the program as Arbor Co.’s Dining With Dignity in two of their communities. We did it in an engaging environment, elevating the experience across the board with plates, linens, décor of the dining room and other things to engage the residents and preserve their dignity. In those two communities, residents’ caloric intake was up 30%, and because the nutritional value of the food was still there dietitians saw better clinical outcomes.

Morris: Grind Dining is not a purée program. Our method is just to grind the cooked proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables so that they will be easier for residents to chew and swallow but formed in a way that they can pick up with their fingers. We found that just by making the food small, compact, neat and easy to pick up, the mechanics of eating with the hands came quite naturally to folks after a while.

As toddlers, eating with our hands and fingers was quite acceptable and tolerated until society put the pressure on us to conform and become “civilized.” Older adults have to unlearn 60 to 70 years of using utensils and that it is now OK and perfectly fine to eat with their hands.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources