Majority Rules

Residents’ votes determine menu at CCRC.

By Becky Schilling, Editor

A shrimp Caesar salad that has been ground and remolded.

WARMINSTER, Pa.—When Diane Dougherty, assistant foodservice director at Ann’s Choice, a 132-resident CCRC, says the dining operation is resident centered, she means it. For the past four years, residents have helped plan every lunch and dinner menu.

Each Monday residents meet with Dougherty, Chef Lisa Sweeney and Dietitian Meredith Black to plan out the following week’s menu. “We feel residents should have a choice, especially when it comes to the food,” Dougherty says. “That means writing new recipes often.” Dougherty says the number of residents attending the menu planning meetings varies between four and 30. Items are added to the menu only if they receive a majority of the resident vote.

The foodservice team attempts to guide residents in selecting menu items that are healthy and aren’t budget-busters, but Black admits it’s not always successful.

“Residents will have junk food Friday with potato skins, mozzarella sticks and wings,” she says. “They are open to some of the healthier items. We’ve gotten quinoa on the menu.  I have very little weight loss in the building, so the satisfaction with the food is there.”

Dougherty says residents typically don’t ask for pricier items like filet mignon frequently because it takes away from its specialness when that dish is served. Salmon and Yankee pot roast are two resident favorites.

“Being in a corporate environment we’re very structured with recipes and it’s usually a standardized menu,” Sweeney adds. “It’s fun to have a little bit more freedom. It does create a good amount of work with writing and yield testing with the recipes. We have only four cooks for the whole building. It keeps them engaged. As far as food costs go that’s sometimes a struggle.”

Two entrée options are offered for dinner and several everyday options are available for those residents who don’t choose one of the resident-selected specials. The lunch menu is normally a salad or sandwich option.

In addition, there is a ground and puréed option for every entrée. The facility has always had an extensive puréed program, but the mechanical soft ground program is a new venture for the team. All puréed and ground foods are remolded to look like their non-ground or puréed counterparts.