A 30,000-square-foot central kitchen with cook-chill technology and pods supports staff who prepare 13,000 meals daily for patients on 125 specialized diets and food for employees and guests.
When Johns Hopkins Hospital administrators committed to expanding and enhancing patient services, a new central kitchen became essential for receiving, storing, preparing and producing food for the entire campus. A 30,000-square-foot facility — the size of one and a half football fields — opened partially in January 2012 and fully in April 2012. The central kitchen includes centralized produce preparation, cook-chill food prep and packaging, hot food production and assembly pods for patient trays.
The net result is that the hospital's foodservice systems now operate at a heightened level of technological advancement. The kitchen's design helps improve customer satisfaction by enhancing food quality and offering various forms of service, including patient room service. The hospital's contract foodservice provider, Sodexo, provides more than 13,000 meals daily to patients on 125 specialized diets as well as to employees and visitors dining in the employee break room and various nonexternal-branded retail operations. Directing this massive operation is Leo Dorsey, foodservice director of the department of food and clinical nutrition, and resident district manager for Sodexo.
Construction of a new patient building complex was the main impetus to expand and centralize the hospital's foodservice operation. Opened in April 2012, the new building sits on 5 acres and features 33 operating rooms, expansive adult and pediatric emergency departments, 7 pharmacies, and diagnostic imaging facilities. The complex contains 560 private patient rooms in 2 towers: the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center, with 205 private inpatient rooms, named in honor of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's mother who died at age 102 in 2012; and the Sheikh Zayed Tower, with 355 private inpatient rooms for cardiovascular and critical care, named in honor of the late father of the president of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The new central kitchen, located on Orleans Street on the south side of campus, also supplies meals to patients in the Weinberg building. Another kitchen, built in the 1960s, serves about 400 patients daily in 4 other buildings. The new central kitchen also provides bulk food to the old kitchen, to the employee break room located across a hallway from the central kitchen and to retail operations located throughout campus.
"We designed our new kitchen for maximum efficiency and to best meet the nutritional needs of our patients," says Dorsey, who joined Sodexo 21 years ago and came to Johns Hopkins 11 years ago. "We installed the most technically advanced food-processing equipment, including machines that can peel and chop vegetables and fruit in record time, such as peeling a melon in six seconds. No longer must employees perform this and other such functions by hand."
In addition, cook-chill equipment allows Johns Hopkins to store food for up to two weeks, and computer software enables staff to fulfill individual patients' dietary needs while avoiding foods to which they are allergic. "We now accommodate 125 different types of diets and have seen a growing number of patients with food allergies — even allergies that we haven't seen before — that we have to track carefully," says Julie Branham, MS, RD, LDN, project manager for the department of food and clinical nutrition.
The hospital offers "At Your Request," a proprietary, Sodexo-developed, room service-style meal plan available 12 hours a day for oncology, medical, pediatric and obstetric patients and their visitors. Patients order from a call center, and staff deliver within one hour. "We're limited only by the patients' health," says Jake Fatica, executive chef at Johns Hopkins and also with Sodexo. "Patients can order as if they were dining at a restaurant." If patients aren't able to use the call center, nutrition assistants help them order and send their meal requests wirelessly to the kitchen using a tablet computer. The hospital also offers traditional tray service for patients who are unable to take advantage of room service for various health reasons.
"Working closely with the owner, operator and members of the architectural and engineering team, we took a holistic approach to defining the goals and expectations of the project and translating them towards practical, tangible and measurable design solutions that resulted in improvement and highly efficient operation," says Albin Khouw, principal of Porter Khouw Consulting.