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Q&A: Daphne K. Gulick, Senior Director of Food Services, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, Elizabethtown, Pa.

When the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown opened its doors 102 years ago, the facility was a self-sustaining community for the frail and elderly. Over the years, it evolved into a skilled nursing, memory support, personal care and independent living community for seniors. The village now has more than 1,800 residents, 576 skilled nursing and personal care accommodations and 940 retirement living homes.

Masonic Village’s 13,380-square-foot central kitchen and commissary is a combination of cook-chill/cook tank and conventional production.The foodservice operation includes six restaurants in the independent living area of campus and newly renovated kitchen and dining areas in the healthcare center to serve skilled nursing residents.

FE&S spoke with Gulick to learn more about foodservice operations in the health care center and its goals for accommodating the changing senior care segment.

FE&S: Please describe your foodservice operations.

DG: The trend for today's skilled nursing facilities is about creating smaller environments. In the healthcare center, 450 residents live in 10 separate neighborhoods, each with its own kitchen and dining area. Last January, we renovated seven of these kitchen and dining areas and will finish the remaining three this year. In these new country kitchens, residents dine together in a homey, comfortable and warm atmosphere with the goal being to have a relaxed dining experience. Food is distributed from a central kitchen and commissary to each individual neighborhood.

FE&S: What recent changes have you made?

DG: In the past, we were a plate-retherm operation with a cook-chill facility. Food was shipped to the tray line cold and then rethermalized, before being transported on a cart to each neighborhood. The country kitchens have built-in rethermalization equipment and a dishwasher. This has changed our residents' dining experience.

FE&S: Describe your menus in the healthcare center.

DG: Our operation is about the overall environment and dining experience. We feel that, in any type of environment, it's important to create a dining experience according to our residents' needs. We have three seasonal menus, and each season is five weeks. We have one entrée option at each meal, as well as staples including grilled chicken breast, soup made from scratch and a variety of sandwiches and salads. This has helped decrease our food costs. Staff will label and refrigerate unused portions for those who wish to eat between meal times. We have been able to forecast production, which puts supply back into the rotation.

FE&S: What equipment is used in the country kitchens?

DG: We have a counter with toasters, hot and cold wells and ice cream dipper wells for self-service use. A self-service beverage station also is part of the lineup, with the exception of the memory support neighborhood, where it is behind the counter. Dining attendants are available to assist and serve residents, as well. The back of the country kitchens include roll-in refrigeration and sandwich units, combi ovens to rethermalize food and dish machines. The central kitchen and commissary has an advanced meal preparation system, and food is dispatched on a cart to a separate staging area. This section houses the cold tray line and is where dishes are redistributed to each neighborhood.

FE&S: Tell us about the setup of the central kitchen and commissary.

DG: The 13,380-square-foot central kitchen and commissary is a combination of cook-chill/cook tank and conventional production. The cook-chill side includes a cook tank/tumble chiller, a pair of 100-gallon kettles and a pump station. This is where bag items like muscle meats, soup and sauces are produced. On the conventional side, there is a large charbroiler, large griddle, four combi ovens, braising pan and food processor. There also is a separate ingredient room, where everything is premeasured. It is a cook-to-inventory environment. Dining attendants are responsible for bringing food to each country kitchen from the staging area for every meal.

FE&S: Do you have meal programs for residents with specific needs?

DG: We offer menus for four different diets, including regular house, carb control, low cholesterol and low sodium. The puree program is on a 12-day rotation, and menu items at this station are prepared from scratch and formed. These items can be frozen and rethermalized in combi ovens, maintaining nutritional value, flavor and plate presentation. We also alter recipes to make sure they work.

The Golden Age of Senior Care Foodservice

Case Study: Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services