Order what you want, when you want it. Edward's room service (specifically the mashed potatoes) featured in the Chicago Tribune.
Hospital food gets intensive care, healthy update
More hospitals give patients what they want, when they want it -- and no tipping
Special to the Tribune
November 4, 2009
Margret Malinowski is a big fan of the mashed potatoes at Edward Hospital. So when the 22-year-old was hospitalized for an infection in September, she was quick to dial down to the food service department to order a plateful -- with a side of pudding.
Malinowski's mother, Ann, is an employee in the Naperville hospital's information systems services department. But Margret's room service wasn't special treatment.
Every patient at Edward -- and at a growing number of hospitals in the Chicago area -- can order everything from Italian ice to tofu, any time the patient wants it.
"We still fight the image of 'hospital food' every day," said Lisa Jezuit, food services director at Edward. "Hospital food used to be bested in reputation by maybe only airplane food. But hopefully we are changing that."
Forget the image of a cafeteria tray with a tired pile of canned green beans, some jiggly green Jello and a cold piece of meat delivered only at mealtime. Now the trend is to allow the patient to order off a menu when he or she wants to eat.
"With a traditional tray line, all your floor was served at once," Jezuit said. "If you were getting a test, when you got back to your room, your food was cold and your only choice was a sandwich. Now, you can order down and get hot chicken stir fry or meat loaf."
Adventist GlenOaks Hospital in Glendale Heights is the latest hospital to make the switch. Others in the area -- such as Rush-Copley in Aurora, Advocate Good Samaritan in Downers Grove and Edward -- implemented room service programs in the last few years and across the board have seen skyrocketing positive feedback from patients.
Other hospitals are taking it even further. Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago offers only grass-fed beef, has organic offerings across its menu and provides several different ethnic options for its patients daily. Delnor Hospital in Geneva implemented a traveling chef program, where a few times a year, a chef from outside the hospital visits and prepares a meal that is then offered to patients that day.
And there is a growing effort among food service directors to order food locally and fresh in season when they can, they said. When that's not possible, they offer flash-frozen vegetables instead of the canned varieties.
All of the changes reflect a growing recognition that today's patients are a more discerning bunch.
Mitchell Ashcroft, director of food and nutrition at Good Samaritan, said today's generations have spent their adulthood reading labels and diet books. Hospitals needed to be mindful of that trend, he said.
At Good Samaritan, the hospital strives for a hotel room service-type experience, with leather-bound menus and items made fresh to order. The most popular option is the tilapia, Ashcroft said. In the hospital's cafeteria, surveys show that the healthy food options are some of the most popular, he said.
At Rush-Copley, the menu includes everything from buffalo chicken sandwiches to Italian ice, while at Edward, tofu stir fry and fruit and nut salads are offered. The most popular selections there tend to be comfort food, like meatloaf or turkey and potatoes, Jezuit said.
Those potatoes were Margret Malinowski's favorite, and they helped make her stay a pleasant one, her mother said. The food quality is so far removed from the cliche that she sometimes gets takeout from the cafeteria to bring home for dinner, she said.
"I think it also helps the patient not feel quite as much like they are in the hospital. The patient is empowered, they can decide what they want and when they want it," Ann Malinowski said.
Area food directors agreed that while the early implementation of a room service program can be more expensive, there are cost savings in the long run because less food is wasted.
And the trend is only likely to grow, they predicted, as more hospitals are hopping onboard and looking for ways to make hospital dining less institutional.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services