Building a kitchen that feels like home

Mennonite Home Care Campus, in Lancaster, Pa., recently completed a more than $2 million kitchen renovation.

Mennonite Home Care Campus (MHC), a 355-bed continuing care facility located in Lancaster, Pa., recently completed a more than $2 million top-to-bottom kitchen renovation in order to offer residents more food choices in an environment similar to what they’d have at home.

According to JoBeth Kissinger, director of dining services, the plan to renovate the kitchen grew out of the facility’s overall transition to a person-centered care model, which was completed six years ago. “Our facilities went from an institutional model to a household model, which is a homelike environment for residents,” she says.

After the transition to the person-centered care model, MHC’s 188 skilled nursing residents saw additional food options provided to the household. Most of the facility’s 135 personal care residents, however, didn’t see as many changes in their foodservice options. “Our kitchen wasn’t part of the original transition to person-centered care and it was no longer conducive to the style of food prep we needed,” Kissinger says, adding that, “We wanted to be able to provide more on-demand serving and choices for all of our residents.”

In order to provide those options for the personal care residents, the kitchen would need a renovation, which began in July 2013. The kitchen renovation was completed in four months, and additional modifications to one of the dining rooms serving MHC’s personal care residents were finished in January. In order to stay within the project’s timeframe, Kissinger opted to shut down the kitchen completely to finish the project in one fell swoop.

That presented Kissinger and her team with plenty of challenges. During construction, all of the facility’s hot food was prepared in one of the kitchens at Woodcrest Villa, MHC’s residential living campus. Kissinger procured two portable kitchen units—one for cold prep and one for ware washing—as well as portable refrigerator and freezer units.

Transporting food between these decentralized units was sometimes easier said than done—especially since the renovation started during the hottest week of the year. “Temperature control and storage was an issue,” Kissinger says. Her team also stepped up its levels of food production, and she continually evaluated the process and made adjustments so that all staff members had the food and equipment they needed every day.

Additionally, Kissinger adds, the dining services team—which serves approximately 1,150 meals every day—had to work together in ways it hadn’t in the past. The entire staff met four times every day to make sure every staff member had what he or she needed, and they produced menu items one day prior to ensure continuity of service to all residents.

With the renovation complete, MHC’s kitchen now has new equipment as well as more production and warmer space. The footprint of the kitchen didn’t change, but some spaces were consolidated in order to provide a better layout. For example, the kitchen previously included three walk-in refrigerators and two freezers, and those were combined into one walk-in refrigerator and two freezers to cut down on food transportation time.

Additionally, one of the dining rooms now includes a grill, a stove and a salad bar, so residents are able to choose from additional menu items that are made to order. Kissinger says that her team has already started offering these items at breakfast, and they’re anticipating offering additional food choices during the evening meal in the near future.

The feedback from residents has been nothing but positive. “I’m really proud of the fact that during the renovation, we had zero resident complaints,” Kissinger says. “We’re seeing more residents participate in breakfast, and the staff is excited to be able to provide options that we couldn’t before.”



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