Nursing home saves senior program

A spirit of cooperation between a small Montana nursing home and a struggling Meals On Wheels (MOW) program has kept the senior feeding program alive. Candy Vincent, dietary manager at 38-bed Madison Valley Manor, in Ennis, Mont., says her skilled nursing facility saved the tiny program earlier this year by bringing it into the home.

“[The MOW program was] facing two challenges,” Vincent explains. “They were losing their location and they couldn’t operate in the black. I put a plan in place to move the program to our facility to solve the location problem and have our kitchen cook lunch for them to help their financial problem.”

Vincent adds one extra cook in the kitchen on the days the senior meals are prepared. The cost of the additional employee is split 50/50 between MOW and Madison Valley, reducing the MOW’s labor cost by about 65%.“We bill them a flat monthly rate, $3,300, that is evaluated every six months to make sure the program can afford it and our facility is not losing money,” she says.

The MOW program is small, currently delivering meals to six people in town and feeding another 15 or so three days a week in a congregate setting at Madison Valley.

“We have a sun room in our building that does not get used during dining times, which gives them a nice place to eat with a view,” she explains.

Vincent says the nursing home also has benefited from the partnership. “It allowed us to make some additions to our menu that I previously didn’t have the labor to do,” she notes. “For example, we added fresh same-day baking like cakes from scratch, etc. We serve them the same food that our residents eat, which is easier than making an entirely different meal.”

Vincent suggests that the arrangement has enhanced the public’s perception of Madison Valley.

“Our facility is now more involved in the community and our residents feel like they are helping out by allowing them to come and eat in their home,” she says. “The Meals On Wheels people are getting quality meals that are dietitian approved. It also has allowed the community to see that we don’t cook ‘institution food’. We even have some [participants] come and eat with our residents on days that Meals On Wheels is closed.”

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