Nancy Geffre: Visionary Leader

It takes a certain type of person to thrive during difficult times, and Nancy Geffre, director of nutrition and foodservices at 545-bed Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., is one of those people.

Sanford has made dramatic changes in the past five years—opening a new surgical tower, children’s hospital and heart center—with each of these changes affecting foodservice. When space was needed for patient care, a major retail location was closed, leaving Geffre with the task of opening a new location, and quickly. Instead of looking at these changes as a challenge, Geffre saw them as an opportunity to create a better foodservice department.

Positive thinking: “Oftentimes, people can get overwhelmed when you are growing and building, but instead of looking at it from the downside Nancy always looks at it from the positive side,” says Kay Santema, vice president of cancer and women’s services, and Geffre’s supervisor. “She is always looking at what can we do here or what can we learn or how can we turn this around to be a positive thing. She is definitely a seasoned director who is a leader in every sense of the word. She builds exceptional teamwork. She’s a tremendous asset to our organization.”

Santema says one of Geffre’s greatest assets is seeing opportunity. “Every year it seems like there are projects that are going on,” Santema says. “Nancy is enthused and energized by that and she energizes the people who work around her. I think that’s an important component. I love working with her because she gives me energy.”

FSD of the Month, Nancy Geffre, Sanford Medical CenterSantema calls her working relationship with Geffre a well-oiled machine, and the Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) agrees. In June, Geffre was presented with the Partnership in Leadership Award, which is given to a member who has used teamwork to overcome obstacles to obtain project results.

Dakota Food Court: One of the big projects Geffre and Santema worked on together was the Dakota Food Court. Geffre was informed that the Heart Beat Café, a retail location in the heart center that featured healthy items, was going to be closed because the space was needed for patient care. Geffre knew the main cafeteria could not handle the added volume, so she started work on a new retail concept.

As luck would have it, a new surgical tower was close to being finished and there was some shell space on the ground floor, which Geffre was told could be used for a foodservice outlet.

“We knew there wasn’t enough space to put in a full kitchen, and it was quite some distance from the main cafeteria,” Santema says. “We were also very interested in doing as much locally as we could.”

That sentiment helped guide Geffre to a partnership with Hot Stuff Foods, a Sioux Falls-based company.

“I had met with Hot Stuff Foods and gone to the corporate office and test kitchen,” Geffre says. “I knew a lot about the company already in anticipation that someday I might have a partnership with them. I was informed that we needed to open something by July 2006 and this was early in that year. Because Hot Stuff Foods was already involved with the hospital by donating food to our Children’s Miracle Network, I felt they would make a good partner.”

FSD of the Month, Nancy Geffre, Sanford Medical Center

The project was approved in February 2006, construction started in March and the location opened July 5th.

The location is a food court concept with stations like SmashHits Deli, C-Street Bakery and Dakota Food Specialties.

“I wasn’t totally confident that it was going to work out for me,” Geffre says about the partnership with Hot Stuff Foods. “I’m a dietitian and focused on serving healthy food. Hot Stuff Foods’ main business is pizza, not that pizza can’t be healthy. We found that they had other lines. We added the Phat Burrito line, which is very healthy. You have a choice of black beans and rice, chicken and vegetables in a nice whole-wheat wrap. It ended up that there was enough variety that I felt we could do the right thing for our employees and customers.”

Another asset Geffre found with the partnership with Hot Stuff Foods is that the hospital has become a testing ground for new products. One new product that Geffre asked to be developed was a high-fiber pizza dough. After a trial run the dough was added at the Dakota Food Court.

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