Food and Nutrition
We at the Department of Food and Nutrition at NUMC strive to deliver the highest quality nutritious meals to our patients. We take the most recent knowledge of nutrition and wellness, and combine it with wholesome fresh food to provide our patients with the best environment to heal faster.
Food and Nutrition Staff
NUMC employs approximately 70 food service associates who are trained and frequently tested on safe food-handling techniques and proper infection control. They prepare and serve the food to the patients and staff courteously and efficiently, always eager to help make a patient’s stay a little brighter with a special food request. The food service supervisors are all graduates of the 120-hour Dietary Manager’s Course, and are also regularly in-serviced to maintain their knowledge of the prevention of food-borne illnesses.
Most of the patients are visited routinely by one of seven Registered Dietitians. These professionals have all obtained their credentials from accredited universities, and must maintain their knowledge by accruing continuing education credits in order to stay registered with the American Dietetic Association. In addition, they are certified with the State of New York as Certified Dietitian-Nutritionists. Some dietitians at NUMC also have specialties, such as nutrition support, renal disease, and diabetic education. Dietitians are an integral part of the health care team. They work closely with nurses, physicians and other health care professionals to provide quality nutritional care to the patients at NUMC. For patients who are too ill to consume an oral diet, the dietitians will recommend to the physician the most appropriate mode of nutrition support to provide the patient with an optimal nutritional outcome.
The managers of the Food and Nutrition Department are also Registered Dietitians, with additional education and knowledge in running a food service operation, from employee relations to monitoring a budget. Together, all of the employees in the Department of Food and Nutrition work together to make the patient’s meals enjoyable and satisfying.
The main kitchen was built with the Dynamic Care Building in 1973, but is carefully maintained and constantly updated. The kitchen is spacious, as it was originally built to feed 1800 patients! As a result, there is ample space to adequately store the food properly, and for everyone to have his or her own workspace. The chefs cook with the latest modern equipment, such as a panini grill and convection ovens.
Each floor of the hospital has its own pantry that is stocked daily with snacks by the Food and Nutrition Department. There are also microwave ovens and refrigerators for the patients to use, with assistance from the nursing staff.
The employee cafeteria feeds up to 800 people per day from all areas of the hospital. There you can find tasteful pasta dishes, homemade soups, gourmet salads and sandwiches, and personal pizzas.
The staff of the Food and Nutrition Department serves about 300 patients each meal. Providing this many people with tasty, attractive meals is a complicated but precise process, as everyone has individual needs and preferences. However, we strive to make sure every single patient is happy with his or her diet. One method of achieving this goal has been to prevent mistakes by eliminating handwritten paper menus by utilizing state-of-the-art computer systems.
When a patient is admitted, his or her physician decides what type of diet the patient should receive based on his or her medical history. The diet is then entered into the electronic medical record (a large computer system that holds patient information), which is automatically transmitted to the computer system in the main Food and Nutrition Office. The computer combines the diet order with the patient’s allergies and personal preferences, and prints out a tray ticket. A supervisor reviews each tray ticket to make sure it is an attractive and appetizing meal. It is then put together on a tray and brought up to the patient.
A representative of the Department visits each patient to review their menu selections and preferences. Again, this is not done with a paper and pencil, but is entered into a palm pilot and downloaded into the dietary computer system. This eliminates questions about what the patient is allowed to eat, as each patient’s personal diet appears on the palm pilot. By taking selections in this manner, it gives the patients the opportunity to discuss their dietary concerns with a live person, instead of scribbling notes on a paper menu.
The Department of Food and Nutrition works closely with the Therapeutic Recreation Department by providing and cooking food for snacks and parties. The physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Unit has a happy hour every Friday, where the patients nibble on cheese cubes and crackers, or make their own sundaes with the help of the Recreation Therapist. Whole turkeys with all of the trimmings are prepared and brought to the psychiatric wards during holiday time. The Department also caters parties for individual departments and employees within the hospital. Here is where the chefs can become creative and show their stuff with fancy fruit bowls or ornate vegetable platters.
The Food and Nutrition Department serves a one-week menu cycle that is ethnically and culturally diverse. Many alternate dishes are available if a patient dislikes the meal of the day. Being a large teaching hospital, we must have food available for all different kinds of diets, from low-sodium, low-cholesterol diets to gluten-free diets. We service Italian meals, Spanish meals, and vegetarian dishes. We are able to provide kid-friendly meals to our youngest pediatric patients, and appropriate food that can be easily tolerated by the elderly. The chefs have whipped up special meals for some long-term patients in the past; patients can even receive a piece of cake on their birthday if their diets allow it. Even the pickiest eaters usually find something they like to eat during their stay here.
If you have questions about the diet your physician ordered for you, or why you are receiving special food on your tray, or if you just have questions about general nutrition and healthy eating habits, the dietitians will be happy to answer any questions you have. All patients on special diets such as diabetic, low-sodium, low-cholesterol, low-fat, renal, etc., will receive written materials about their diet to take home with them after discharge. These materials will guide the patient/patient’s family on what foods they can include in their diet, will give suggestions on foods that can be substituted for ones that should be avoided, as well as providing information on preparation of foods.
Diabetic and renal patients of NUMC are able to come in as outpatients and have a counseling session with a dietitian. All you need is a referral slip from an NUMC physician and the dietitian will be happy to explain your diet to you. Patients having gastric-bypass surgery at NUMC also receive intensive counseling with a dietitian prior to their surgery.