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The state of healthcare foodservice: Remaking the menu

New styles of service took hold during the pandemic, and dining teams rose to the challenge.
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As the pandemic shuttered dining rooms and cafeterias, operators had to quickly turn to new styles of feeding. Many FSD survey respondents said they sought to retain meal quality while serving in these new formats, such as to-go or room delivery. 

“We have downsized our menus and focused on the basics in terms of trying to deliver room trays that still hold up to our quality standards,” says Desiree Morris, director of dining and environmental services at Ingham County Medical Care Facility in Okemos, Mich. “This has involved purchasing additional equipment that was not needed before, such as heated pallets.”

When the dining team at Kimball County Manor and Assisted Living in Kimball, Neb., switched to feeding residents in their rooms, they also had to shrink the menu and switch to Styrofoam plates and plastic flatware. “This created a challenge in our presentation and appeal, so we increased the color on our plates by adding extra garnishes,” says Certified Dietary Manager Jeanette Brown.

The team further boosted menu quality and variety by creating an “Always” menu, which is “simply a list of different items, such as a hamburger, that is always available as a second choice,” Brown says. “This actually provided more choices and flexibility for the residents, and they love it.”

Soup, salads and sweet treats reign supreme

Sandwiches and salads were go-tos as portability became paramount. 

“Our roast beef with arugula and pickled onions on a potato bun has been a popular sandwich option,” says Steven Szilvagyi, director of culinary expressions at Pine Ridge of Plumbrook in Sterling Heights, Mich. And at Cedar County Memorial Hospital in El Dorado Springs, Mo., the spinach salad with apples, cranberries and pecans has won over diners, says Dietary Manager Sherri Page.

Soup was also mentioned by many respondents. “Soup always makes you feel better,” says David Brue, assistant director of nutrition services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. 

Dessert was a reliable way to help brighten diners’ days, too. At Cripple Creek Care Center in Cripple Creek Colo., the foodservice team went around with an ice cream sundae cart, and at Kinkora Pythian Home in Duncannon, Pa. the dining team offered snacks to residents throughout the day, including ice cream, pudding and muffins in the afternoons, says Certified Dietary Manager Shirly Conrad. 

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