Nina Dubman: Change Maker

The Apostolic Christian Church, which believes in and promotes the doctrines of the gospel found in the Bible, operates 10 nursing homes for the elderly in five states, in addition to two hundred apartment units for elderly persons not requiring specialized care. When one of them—Apostolic Christian Resthaven, serving 50 residents as well as those in 18 independent apartments in Elgin, Ill.—sought a director of dietetic service eight years ago, a warm, experienced and enthusiastic Jewish dietitian was promptly hired for the job.

As the administrators knew—and the dietitian soon found out—religious beliefs have nothing to do with qualifications for the job. Now, about the only time Nina Dubman, RD, LD, CFE, thinks about hers is when she leaves work early on Fridays and takes all major Jewish holidays off, as agreed to in her contract.

Hearing aid: To know Dubman at all is to realize that she's an unflappable, can-do, low-key person who can be depended upon to get the job done without losing her cool. And—possibly most important of all attributes—she's a good listener. It's a trait that her employees as well as the residents have come to value. In fact, without it, a total revamp of the facility's recipes and menus undertaken this year could have caused great dissension both back- and front-of-the-house in this 20-year-old, upscale facility.

According to Dubman, upon her arrival at Resthaven in 1996, there had not been a revamp of menus in more than a decade—"and I felt it was overdue." Using her distributor's software package, she and her staff created a menu that was, and is, individualized for the facility's needs and focused almost entirely on scratch-cooking; about 95% of items on the menu are homemade, from soups to entrees to breads and cakes.

In addition, "my arrival added more continuity to the department because I'm also a clinical dietitian," Dubman explains. "We were able to eliminate the consultant dietitian position and I'm therefore responsible for doing menu planning and patient documentation. I do each quarterly assessment, annual assessments, lab results and new admissions assessments. Plus, if there's any improvement or deterioration in a resident's status, we have to do assessments as well as calorie counts if they're not eating well."

With the introduction of the new menu this year, Dubman expected complaints, especially when it came to such relatively "nouvelle" items as stuffed salmon, but they didn't materialize. The most she heard were a few questioning, "what's that?"

Carb counting key: The fact that only 25% of residents are on a regular, non-restricted diet doesn't seem to faze the staff, who turn out diabetic, mechanical, dysphagia, puree, low-sodium, diabetic and calorie-restricted meals, as well as versions featuring no concentrated sweets. "The most challenging aspect of 'special diets' is that we use carbohydrate counting," Dubman points out.

"This actually allows diabetics and those on 'no concentrated sweets' to have more items than they could before. I started this when I instituted the new menus. Now, there are new diabetic desserts and upgraded puree diets—including puree breads for sandwiches and slurried cakes so they're like the real thing."

Puree breads have proven to be a successful addition from the residents' perspective and not too time-consuming for the kitchen. A commercially packaged puree bread mix is put into a loaf pan along with hot water. It sets within 20 minutes and can also be shaped with a scoop to make rolls. For breakfast, residents on puree diets can now enjoy scrambled eggs with "toast."

Dubman believes she's got the full support of administrators, since they'd rather have the residents satisfied with good quality food—as highlighted in the facility's promo brochures—than dining services striving to be a profit center. Since administration favors the made-from-scratch approach emphasis over the use of convenience items, no staff reduction has been necessary.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce dirt

Savor at McCormick Place developed the Green Thumb brand for menu items and products featuring its rooftop bounty; the latest is a pale ale made with the first crop of hops grown on the roof. Promoting that branding and the convention center’s green certification has brought in business from groups with a sustainability focus.

Ideas and Innovation
business pamphlet fair show

As we struggle to recruit and retain millennials, we had our current millennial employees invite friends who don’t work for our organization to a Q&A session where we find out why our organization is or isn’t appealing to them, and what they are looking for in an employer. I recommend doing this off-site in a casual environment so you can get honest and open feedback that could be useful for better marketing.

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

Menu Development
sweet pea ravioli

On any given night at the Wake Robin senior living facility in Shelburne, Vt., residents may find spring sweet pea and mascarpone ravioli with white wine cream sauce or acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and cranberries on the menu. These dishes, along with a new sweet-potato burger topped with cilantro aioli, aren’t just delicious, says Director of Dining Services Kathy King. They’re also completely vegetarian.

The popularity of Meatless Mondays and the growing number of people who call themselves “flexitarians” have impacted menu development in every noncommercial sector. Although...

FSD Resources