2016 Get Local Party

More Veggies for Kalkaska Memorial

September 9, 2016 | |

A “Building Healthy Communities” grant through Groundwork has allowed the Kalkaska Memorial Health Center to update its salad bar (pictured above) to make more space available for healthy, fresh food, and keep foods cooler without using ice.

There’s an elderly man who eats three meals each weekday in the Kalkaska Memorial Health Center (KMHC) cafeteria. He usually starts his day with a workout in the facility’s Cardiac Rehab Center, and then eats breakfast with hospital’s dietary staff.

In the past, he would venture home after breakfast to take care of his ailing wife then return to the hospital for lunch, where he would grab a sandwich and soup for the each of them.  But after his wife passed away, his presence was felt even greater in the dining hall. The KMHC staff knew they had to do something special, so they began inviting him for weekend breakfast even though the cafeteria was normally open during the week.

That’s just one example of how the Kalkaska Memorial Hospital not only feeds hospital staff, patients and their families, but also nurtures the community at large with nourishment and kindness. And, a new “Building Healthy Communities” grant, facilitated by Taste the Local Difference(R) (TLD), will help the hospital provide healthier options to those who need it most.

Close to the high school, health department, and many local businesses, KMHC is a focal point in the community. And it’s dining services meets the needs of many of the 17,000 residents in the Kalkaska community. About 86% of local residents graduated high school and just 13% of the those over 25 have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The median household income is $39,986 while 17.4% of people live in poverty as indicated by 2014 Census data.

The average meal at Kalkaska Memorial costs $3.01, so it’s is a great place to dine on a budget.  And, with ample foot traffic, Kalkaska Memorial regularly surveys patrons to ensure their palates and their wallets are happy.

Initial satisfaction surveys revealed something interesting: Hospital staff and customers wanted a greater variety of foods including more vegetables and vegetarian options. KMHC was happy to meet their needs.

With a vision of change already in place, TLD approached the hospital at the perfect time with additional grant funding to encourage Kalkaska Memorial in further aligning with healthy food service guidelines.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan recruited Groundwork, along with five other community partners, to identify and guide 50 local business and institutions that serve food—including schools, hospitals, food pantries, retail locations and elderly living facilities—in making changes to their food delivery system that will make healthy choices more accessible. The Building Health Communities program offers mini-grant funding to these sites that will be used to implement evidence-based health promotion strategies.

Kalkaska Memorial’s grant funds helped the hospital renovate their food service production and allowed them to create an “innovation station” that serves made to order entrees, two new Grab-n-Go coolers and an updated salad bar.

One grab-n-go cooler will replace a Coca-Cola cooler and now features 100% juice, water, cut fruit and vegetables and salads. The second cooler will be available to staff working 2nd and 3rd shifts and will be filled with the delicious meal time service options they would normally be unable to enjoy. It also reduces waste while encouraging healthy eating.

The updated salad bar is more efficient, makes more space available for food, and keeps foods cooler without ice. Vinegar and lemon slices are also now available as low-sodium dressing alternatives.

The old kitchen equipment has been donated to other organizations including the Kalkaska Commission on Aging and Frankfort, Michigan’s Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital, which, coincidently, is another Building Healthy Communities grant recipient working with Taste the Local Difference.

Amy Britton, director of dining services at Kalkaska Memorial, has been a champion in getting the hospital to bring healthier food choices to its customers. Specifically because of this grant, Amy is now using new recipes to meet the Center for Disease Control’s “Healthy Food Service Guidelines,” by reducing sodium content and increasing vegetarian options. In fact, to emphasize seasonality, a harvest salad entrée featuring local apples will be available this fall, which will be sure to entice and delight both the hospital staff and the greater Kalkaska community.  

About the Author

Suzie Genyk is the Building Healthy Communities Site Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference®

Learn more about the Building Healthy Communities grant program here.

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