Alegent Health is Catering to the Healing Benefits of Food
Release Date: 07/21/2008

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OMAHA, Neb. — Imagine dining on a succulent salmon filet with teriyaki glaze on top of a bed of rice with blended vegetables. For dessert, it’s rich, chocolate applesauce cake. Patients at Alegent Health’s metro hospitals are enjoying this gourmet meal from the comfort of their hospital bed with the addition of the Aladdin Connect-Rite III System cook-chill system. The new system allows for transferred foods to be kept at their optimal temperatures for longer periods of time, keeping food safe and allowing an expanded menu options for patients. It’s part of Alegent Health’s overall goal to provide patients with an enhanced hospital experience while they’re in our care, and food’s a big part of that.

“When patients are sick, food is an important aspect of their recovery. Our goal is to provide the patient with the best dining experience while they’re in our care. The Aladdin allows us to do that using state-of-the-art technology to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold simultaneously,” said Terri Hill, operations leader of Food Service at Alegent Health.

The Aladdin System’s innovative design allows food to be heated and chilled simultaneously. A special docking station on the meal delivery carts can evenly bake bread, and keep a lunch entrée warm at the same time vanilla ice cream stays frozen. This is important because Bergan Mercy Medical Center serves as the central kitchen for three of Alegent Health’s five metro campuses including Immanuel Medical Center; Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs, Iowa; and Midlands Hospital in Papillion. Lakeside Hospital has an independent dining on call option for patients. “Because everything is cooked at Bergan and then distributed to the various campuses, it’s important each food maintains its optimal temperature during tray transfer. The docking station allows hot foods to stay above 140 degrees and cold food to remain below 41 degrees. Therefore, bread can start out as dough on the tray and the system’s Convect Right process allows it to be freshly baked by the time it arrives to the patient’s room,” said Hill.
For one patient who was having trouble eating solid food, the smell of freshly-baked bread that filled her room really made her day.

“That aroma of newly baked bread and the fact that it was warm to the touch was amazing. It took me back to the days when my mother used to make bread from scratch,” she said.

The new transport system has enabled Alegent Health to expand its dining options for patients. The menu-called Catering to You-features two entrées each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Patients can choose from an assortment of breakfast casseroles, savory lunch and dinner options along with bakery products and dessert menus. There are even a variety of soup, salad and sandwich options available. A Catering Associate personally takes the meal order prior to each meal, reviews menu options with patients and hand-delivers the food tray to each patient room to ensure accuracy and consistency.

“The Aladdin System really has expanded our culinary team’s creativity with meals. Now we’re able to offer unique flavors and aromas similar to ones they enjoy at their favorite restaurant.”

Visitors to Alegent Health are also being catered to with renovated dining centers at all metro hospital campuses featuring custom sandwich and salad bars, healthy vending options and premium coffee. This overall push to promote healthier foods is leaving a lasting impression. “Visitors tell us they’re impressed with the changes we’ve made. They now choose to stay on campus for lunch, rather than grabbing a bite to eat at a nearby fast food restaurant.”

Hill says the system has also updated its cash registers at dining centers to allow patients, visitors and employees to pay for their selections with credit, debit or gift cards, rather than cash.