Owens-Reed-with-PatientTuscany turkey sandwich. Sesame chicken.  Herb-crusted fish.

While these dishes may sound like entrees from a nearby restaurant, they are, in fact, just a sampling of HUP’s new “Great Living Menu” for patients. This upgrade in food – and an improvement in how patient meals are prepared – is changing the way patients look at hospital food.

“We use fresh ingredients and everything is made from scratch, even the salad dressing,” said Robert Canney, manager of Food Services.  “HUP is obviously one of the top hospitals in the country. We are striving to match that level of excellence.” 

In addition, HUP now uses a “cook-serve” process to cook and serve food before it cools. This replaces the “cook-chill” method of cooking food and cooling it down, just to reheat it before serving. The result is food that looks, tastes, and smells better and is part of a more nutritious menu at the hospital.

As part of the new process, a catering associate (CA) takes the patient’s order and answers any questions at the bedside.  Next, the CA goes to the kitchen and assembles the freshly cooked food and delivers it to the patients. The CA pours the hot coffee or tea with the meal at a station on the unit and also reviews the tray with patients to ensure their order is correct.

Owens-Reed-and-Ravdin-9-nursesCA Mary Owens-Reed goes through this procedure every day with patients on Ravdin 9.  “I can’t speak highly enough of Mary and the work she does for our patients,” said Jocelyn Strong, MSN, RN, PCCN, nurse manager. Strong added that, because some nursing interventions depend on when food is served to the patient, Owens-Reed and other CAs call the floor when the food is ready.  In this way, the charge nurse can ensure that the patient is prepared to receive the meal.  Mauri Sullivan, MSN, RN, clinical director of Medical Nursing, was instrumental in helping the nurses prepare for the changes, including developing a weekly team huddle flier to inform nurses of their role. 

The sweeping improvements also include new cook-serve trays and larger plates and soup bowls, orders taken closer to when they are delivered to the patient, and a “Heat on Demand” system that helps food remain hot for more than an hour.

With better-tasting food comes greater nutrition — and a healthier impact on patients who eat those meals. “The whole menu has changed,” said Canney. “Patients see more whole grains, non-red meat items, more chicken, a vegetarian menu with fresh vegetables, as well as kosher and gluten-free menus to meet more individual preferences, allergy, cultural and dietary needs.”

Feedback from a patient-satisfaction survey shows improvements in food quality, courtesy of the new initiative. One of those patients is Howard Alexander, an esophageal cancer patient at HUP, who interacts with Owens-Reed for each meal on the unit.

“With my cancer, I’ve lost more than 30 pounds,” said Alexander. “What Mary has been serving me has made it that much easier to enjoy gaining the weight back. She has a pleasant personality, I couldn’t ask for better, and all of the food is good.”

Alexander hopes to leave HUP soon and go into rehab, but is getting as many meals in as he can for now.  “Even though you’re in a hospital, it’s kind of like going out to a restaurant and enjoying a good meal.”

Photo caption: (above) Catering associate Mary Owens-Reed provides Howard Alexander with a meal that was cooked to order! (below) Nurses work with catering associates to ensure success of the new food program (From l to r): Lisa Williams, Jackie DePetris, Mary Owens-Reed, Liza Abraham, and Julie Colanero)

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