Like every other business, each facet of ours (healthcare foodservice) underwent radical changes with updated policies and practices as the pandemic stretched across the globe. It would be commonplace for one day’s updated policy to negate everything we put in place the day previous. The next day would also require recalculating and updating, feeding into a practice we called the pandemic pivot.
As we tried to navigate the unknown, a few constants started to emerge for the ProHealth Care Hospital System located in Waukesha County, Wis. Guests, visitors, and children were no longer allowed on campus; self-service beverage and food stations were unceremoniously abandoned; dining rooms were no longer the comfortable break-time hotspot as they were closed and reopened and closed again until proper parameters were put in place. At the time, it was a completely novel experience; now it is simply the new way to conduct business while promoting health and wellness during unprecendented times.
As social distancing became more and more socially acceptable, the dining rooms also had to pivot to accommodate our greatest initiative: to combat COVID-19. As revenue began to climb toward pre-pandemic levels, vaccines became available, and it was the mission of ProHealth Care to serve and promote the health of our community and community members by offering a free vaccine clinic for all. As a result, ProHealth Care dining rooms became pop-up clinic spaces as hundreds of patrons received their vaccinations daily from January to July. Our focus had shifted from growing retail revenue to simply providing care and hospitality to the hundreds of patients who were often anxious about the process and fearful of the unknown constantly associated with the pandemic.
Another facet of our community outreach that underwent drastic transformation was our Meals on Wheels program. As anticipated, we received an immediate spike in requested services in response to the pandemic last spring. Food production wasn’t an issue, as any foodservice outlet should be prepared for, and hopefully expectant of, any surge in volumes. What we didn’t expect was the difficulty associated with coordinating deliveries of the new orders as volunteers were hesitant about meal delivery as confirmed incident rates of COVID-19 continued to set records.
There was a dire need for assistance and volunteers to ensure the program ran successfully, and we were grateful when leaders in our community stepped forward. We were even lucky enough to enlist the wife of our director, who understood the need and the associated risk.
As 2021 progressed and we started to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, an unexpected situation regarding our community feeding partner surfaced, which forced them to close their doors and end their services after a partnership that spanned decades. It appeared to us that we would need to pivot again and find another way to serve our community. As of today, we are working with a local nonprofit outreach program in an attempt to resurrect our Meals on Wheels program.
If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that foodservice professionals are resilient and resourceful and we can pivot as well as the rest!