The state of healthcare foodservice: Retaining community

Building connections in the time of social distancing proved difficult, but not impossible.
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For senior-living operators, the pandemic brought the additional challenge of keeping residents happy and engaged while they had to spend a lot of time in their own rooms. At Heritage Health Bloomington in Bloomington, Ill., the dining team held hallway bingo games with residents, along with other activities and snacks, to keep residents entertained, says Certified Dietary Manager Tracy Cotner. 

Three-fourths of survey respondents say they’ve also implemented food carts that can travel to residents’ rooms. “The food cart was wonderful for them during this pandemic,” says Falexia Whitfield, food service director for Rego Park Health Care in Corona, N.Y. “I surprised the residents like a prize patrol.”

And at Putnam County Care Center in Unionville, Mo., the foodservice team has livened residents’ spirits with “Fun Friday,” where residents get to choose what meal will show up on the menu. “They look forward to having something of their choice,” says Certified Dietary Manager Rhonda Peek. 

Giving back 

Members from the larger community have also been stepping in to help healthcare employees. 

“We have been lucky with community donations,” says Gary Weiss, executive chef at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass. “One donor donated a $50 gift certificate to local businesses for every hospital staff (not just foodservice). This has helped our staff as well as the community, as all money was spent locally.”

FSDs also worked with volunteers inside their own operations to deliver meals to local residents who were isolated. 

“During the stay home orders from our governor, we provided 40 extra meals a day for our shut-in community residents who didn't have family or friends able to help them shop or prepare meals for themselves,” says Tracy Walker, nutrition manager at Wilson Medical Center in Neodesha, Kan. “Volunteers delivered these meals and help[ed] provide a list of people who needed the extra help.”



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