Becky Ellis: Community partner

Becky Ellis has enhanced the foodservice program at Carilion Clinic by enhancing patient foodservice.

At a Glance

  • 1.5 million patient meals served each year
  • $17 million budget
  • 217 FTEs
  • 7 retail outlets


Becky Ellis has enhanced the foodservice program at Carilion Clinic by:

  • Fostering partnerships with a number of organizations, including two local colleges, the ACF and Health Care Without Harm
  • Promoting health and wellness on the retail side through the Choose Wisely program and a Choice Plus vending program
  • Enhancing patient foodservice through a new ordering system that allows patients to order meals closer to mealtimes
  • Overseeing the renovation of the 300-seat Mountain View Café at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, the system’s largest facility


One of the benefits of having a long tenure with one organization is that Ellis has had the ability to cultivate the kinds of relationships that can help her department grow and innovate.

Two of those relationships are with Virginia Tech University and Virginia Western Community College. Virginia Tech supplies Ellis’ department with dietetic interns, while the Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program at Virginia Western sends culinary interns. Not only does it provide the foodservice department with young talent eager to both learn the business and share their own knowledge, “several of our employees are graduates of these programs,” Ellis notes. She also serves on the curriculum advisory committee for Virginia Western’s culinary program.

“We are also involved with and support the Southwest Virginia chapter of the American Culinary Federation,” she adds. “Our catering supervisor, Darla Mehrkens, serves as vice president of the chapter.”

Carilion’s most recent partnership has been with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the international coalition of healthcare organizations and medical professionals that works “to implement ecologically sound and healthy alternatives to health care practices that pollute the environment and contribute to disease.” Ellis’ department collaborated with Carilion Clinic Strategic Development (CCSD) to sign the HCWH pledge last October.

“We partnered internally with [CCSD’s] Aaron Harris-Bousch,” Ellis explains. “He implemented the farmers’ table and our community outreach, while dining and nutrition services complemented the program with health and wellness programs.”

One of those new programs is Choose Wisely. Created jointly by hospital dietitians and retail dining managers, the program promotes healthy eating by highlighting healthier foods. Those foods are indicated by the Choose Wisely Owl, a logo that looks like an owl but is shaped like an apple.

To encourage customers to “choose wisely,” the purchase of a logoed item earns the customer an entry into a weekly drawing for a free meal.

The healthy eating program also has expanded to include vending. Recently, Canteen Vending placed a 2bU vending machine in Carilion Roanoke Memorial’s Choice Plus vending area, which offers healthier snacks, and it recently added a VE Connect machine, which uses touch-screen technology to display healthy snacks and their nutritional information.

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