During a frantic lunch hour, nutrition workers scurried around a maze of stainless-steel cookware. They were short-staffed, and the cafeteria was slowly filling up. Soon a line formed, snaking around from the single cash register. This is business as usual for the folks that prepare meals at Tri-County Health Care. Every day they take on the daunting task of feeding an entire workforce and patients. Not just for one meal, but three. They are a prime example of kitchen caring!
Do you ever think about the people that prepare your food? To most, it’s simply a transaction, but a delicate system is in place on the other side of the cash register.
In the service of health
Angie Leehy has been working in the kitchen for 25 years. She started her career as a food service worker and eventually earned a degree in dietary management. She now serves as the Nutrition Services Supervisor. During the busy lunch hour, she directed staff and prepared for the rush. When she wasn’t in her office crunching numbers, she was speed walking from one end of the kitchen to another. All of this ensures a tasty meal for the staff and patients of Tri-County.
A typical day
During an average day, six to seven people work in the kitchen in various roles. They start early, with the first crew member coming in at around 5 a.m. That person is responsible for warming the ovens while preparing for breakfast. The next person arrives with the task of preparing cold items like fruit. At this point, the kitchen is in full swing, with staff members hustling upstairs to deliver meals to patients. This cycle repeats itself for lunch and dinner. Each member of the team has a job that is supported by the work of another. Without a cohesive strategy, the kitchen would fall apart.
“Teamwork and communication are a must in our department. Each day is different, and it takes a team to get everything done each day.” – Angie Leehy
Angie doesn’t arbitrarily choose food at random. Every item that ends up on your plate is carefully selected with the help of a dietitian. This process ensures a certain level of nutrition for each meal. The menu changes four times per year. During each new cycle, Angie tries to find new items based on customer trends. Each choice is delicate because she only has so much freezer space.
Some people view food services as an unimportant aspect of patient care, but that isn’t true. The hospital sees a constant flux of patients who need food. Nutrition staff is essential, and the hospital wouldn’t function without them. “Honestly, we may be one of the only bright spots in a patient’s day. Food can be both nourishing and comforting. We are, after all, the keepers of the ice cream,” remarked Angie when asked how she felt her job impacts Tri-County Health Care.