Patients Rave About Washington Hospital’s Farm-Fresh Produce

Eating at Washington Hospital Healthcare System in Fremont, CA is a unique and delicious experience thanks to the Director of Nutrition and Clinical Services, Kimberlee Alvari, and her team. When Alvari started in her current position in February of 2012, one of her goals was to serve fresh and healthy food to patients and staff.

Alvari has spent 25 years at Washington Hospital in different roles and is now pursuing her MBA. She is constantly looking to bring in new ideas and find new ways to improve. Patient care is the forefront of Alvari's focus and she believes that fresh, seasonal, and local produce can have a positive effect on patients' health. She also feels a social responsibility to the community and wants to support and encourage local farmers. Alvari says," It is challenging to put together a food program that is fiscally sound, focuses on health, and behaves as if it has a conscience or keeps the community as a whole in mind." She is quick to note that she sees no other way to run a food program for the hospital.

But how does she do it?

Sourcing locally with fluctuating availability

In order to source local produce weekly, she established relationships with local growers. The challenge, however, was produce availability—something that fluctuated weekly. With this realization, Alvari knew she needed a system that supported the continual changes in produce availability and she found that the Foodservice Suite® (FSS) from CBORD® could support this work.

Identifying cost-effective substitutions

Every Monday, Alvari gets a sheet from her produce vendor letting her know what produce is coming into season, which items are delayed, and which are high-cost items. She also receives a recommendation for replacements. For example, if romaine lettuce is expensive, she gets suggestions for a cost-effective substitute. Heeding the vendor's advice and making changes to menus rests in the hands of FSS. The program allows the staff to change menus quickly—such as when an item has changed or there is a price increase. "I wouldn't be able to make those changes without that support," she added.

With support from FSS, patients enjoy the taste of fresh and healthy produce. Some patients have asked where the hospital gets its produce, noting that it tasted better than produce at home. Others have drawn comparisons between the hospital and a five star restaurant. Sustainable and nutritious food is the current trend that hospitals are striving to achieve, and having the right technology to support this is critical to their success. People will leave comments saying, "I don't want to go home because of the food." Alvari says, "The food program that the hospital provides is driven by the value that they would like to deliver to their patients and that CBORD powers all of it."

In an effort to promote healthy food, Alvari decided to print notes about their produce on patient meal tickets. She uses the Room Service Choice® printing options feature to advertise the fresh meals to patients. This is the first time we, at CBORD, have seen this done, and applaud her creativity.

Washington Hospital is building a reputation for great-tasting food and promoting a fresh, seasonal, and local food supply. CBORD is proud to have developed technology that allows foodservice directors the flexibility to improve patient experience, support its community, and be fiscally responsible.