Although the pandemic disrupted dining operations at the University of Missouri’s hospital complex, the foodservice team seized the opportunity to renovate the facilities and reconceive the program.

The plan was to seamlessly integrate several aspects of the department, including retail locations, employee cafeterias, doctor’s lounges and grab-and-go that will allow us to really elevate our most important segment—patient dining,” says Rocky Dunnam, executive chef for MU Health Care.

The first order of business? Repurposing the self-serve salad bar into a fully customizable salad station. A culinary associate can now build, toss and dress a salad to a customer’s specs and put it into a compostable container to go. The station also offers several plant-forward specialty salads, with a rotating daily selection.

Expanding the selection of healthy snacks was another priority, and items such as hummus with veggie dippers, salad wraps and strawberry-and-yogurt parfaits are on offer. The area of the salad bar that used to hold utensils and napkins has been transformed into a full-service fresh smoothie concept.

To meet sustainability goals with the increase in to-go options, Dunnam searched for and tested a range of eco-friendly packaging, and recyclable, compostable and biodegradable containers are now in the lineup.

Going forward, “we are actively researching immune-boosting ingredients to weave into our menus. Some of these items are common, like garlic, ginger and citrus,” Dunnam says. “But some others we’re exploring are ancient remedies like turmeric, green tea and sesame seeds.”