Tempting the taste buds in senior living

Instead of guessing what residents wanted to eat and serving them the same-old, same-old,  St. Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.,  found a new way for residents to decide what they would like to add to the menu. Borrowing from an industry marketing tool, Food Services Director Joseph Bisaccia and Chef Supervisor John Hammer  hosted an on-site tasting event for residents.

Food service vendors await residents to rate their offerings.

The Resident Food Committee requested more variety in their meals. In response, Bisaccia and Hammer in collaboration with its primary food provider, Ace Endico Food Service Specialists, presented a 10-vendor food show. “We go to food shows and then guess what the residents might like,” says  Bisaccia. To remove the guesswork, Hammer suggested giving residents the chance to weigh in on their menu preferences.

Prior to the event, St. Cabrini’s dieticians reviewed each resident’s nutritional needs and communication abilities. Staff recommended the types of food to offer and planned a schedule to accommodate more than 100 food tasters and their escorts in a two-hour time frame. Staff wanted to shift from traditional nursing home fare to dishes that reflected a less-restrictive approach to dietary compliance that also would appeal to St. Cabrini’s ethnically diverse population.

At the show, residents  had the opportunity to sample an array of the latest food and beverage offerings available—from breakfast foods to desserts—and then let their preferences be known. Among the unconventional food items were sweet-and-sour meatloaf, chicken breast sliders, black bean/roasted corn salad and vegetarian options.

Hammer, who has 30 years’ experience in hospitality and hotel food service, always refers to residents as guests and he and his staff are dedicated to providing them with a satisfying  dining experience. “And the guest is number one,” he says.

Incorporating new items into the menu adds spice to residents’ lives and offers them some surprises at mealtimes. As Bisaccia observes, this not only improves quality of life but it provides other benefits as well. Through the St. Cabrini Food Show, staff now understand the impact of dining services. Meanwhile, residents had a boost in self-esteem; their opinions were the ones that mattered. The participating vendors benefitted from the food show, too. They received genuine feedback from their ultimate customers—and those are the opinions that really count.

Topics: Nutrition , Operations