Sponsored by Sandridge Food Corporation
As hospitals look for every opportunity to reduce preventable readmissions, a growing body of research is drawing a direct link to nutrition as an important variable in the quest.
As a result, hospitals and health systems are trying to incorporate the home-delivery of nutrition-managed meals in their post-discharge and chronic-care programs.
But it’s harder than it looks. Delivery logistics aside, the preparation and packaging of pre-cooked meals isn’t the same as running a commissary or inpatient meal service. It requires different recipes and preparation techniques to sustain freshness and flavor. Many hospital food services – particularly self-operated ones – are already so busy that they struggle to find appropriate space or skilled workers to manage such a program.
But an offering from Sandridge Food Corp., a leading producer of high-quality, private label foods, makes it easy and affordable to provide pre-cooked, pre-packaged meals that taste good, meet nutrition requirements, and cost less than an outsourced meal-delivery service.
How it works
Under the program, Sandridge works with the self-op foodservice’s dietary team to develop a customized lineup of meals that meet nutrition specifications. Then it provides the pre-cooked ingredients in bulk packaging. Hospital personnel – whether from foodservice, catering or another source – mix the ingredients and apportion the meals into takeout containers for delivery.
“All of our products are fully cooked and ready to eat. Just scoop and serve,” says Mike Sandridge, vice president of food service sales at Sandridge Foods. “We provide the ingredients – ready to use – along with guidelines on how much of each component to provide in a meal. No cooking, no training.”
Cost per meal is lower than other options. While shelf life varies by ingredient, the sealed bulk pouches can generally be stored in a refrigerator for 30 days without compromising flavor or safety.
Michigan-based Spectrum Health isn’t yet delivering meals to patients’ homes. But as a possible stepping stone to such a program, it’s been working with Sandridge to provide healthy take-home meals for its own employees.
“For many of the 10,000 people here at our downtown Grand Rapids campus, it can be a challenge to go home after an intense day and prepare a healthy meal,” said Kevin Vos, director of nutrition services at Spectrum Health.
After inviting a panel of employees to participate in a competitive tasting of offerings from five different sources, “Everyone thought the quality as well as the value of the Sandridge line was easily the best.”
Sandridge then worked with Vos’ team to create a menu. “They brought some initial meals to the table, and then we provided input. We asked if they could do more lean proteins, and we asked for some additional grains – driven by the nutritionals and also by a sense of variety,” Vos says. “Now we’re working on vegetarian meals. They’re a good partner to work with.”
The take-home meals are packaged on site and offered for sale in the 13 food-service locations on the Grand Rapids campus. Cost to employees is less than a fast-food meal from the drive-thru. They’re branded as “Smart Choice Meals: Chef-created, dietitian-endorsed and physician-approved.”
“We introduced the meals with very little promotion, but they’ve been very successful—and almost immediately, I had inquiries from employees and physicians about if and when we would extend the program to the patient population,” Vos says.
About the food
Meals are developed consultatively based on a range of available proteins, pastas, sauces and sides. Some, such as Penne Pasta & Bolognese Sauce, involve mixing bulk ingredients. For others, like Pot Roast & Green Beans, the only handling necessary is apportioning the meals.
Nutritional specifications are considered during menu development, and are focused on sodium and protein – but can also include potassium, added sugar, vitamin D, fiber, probiotics, total fat and total calories.
Here are examples:
- Beef Tips & Fettuccini, (8.85 oz., 465.5 calories, 1.925 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 735.3 mg sodium, 6.54 g sugars, 26.94 g protein)
- Beef Barbacoa Bowl with Cilantro Rice (7 oz., 305 calories, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 733 mg sodium, 0 g sugars, 19 g protein)
- Chicken Alfredo (10.5 oz., 596 calories, 12.85 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 683.5 mg sodium, 4 g sugars, 28 g protein)
- Grilled Chicken Breast with Tomato Basil Couscous (25.5 oz., 410 calories, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 685 mg sodium, 5 g sugars, 30 g protein)
- Pork Carnitas with Cilantro Rice (6 oz., 252 calories, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 387 mg sodium, 0.9 g sugars, 18 g protein)
- Beef Pot Roast and Roasted Potatoes with Kale Pesto (8 oz., 440 calories, 8 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 700 mg sodium, 1 g sugars, 28 g protein)
- Penne Pasta and Bolognese Sauce (8 oz., 400 calories, 4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 480 mg sodium, 8 g sugars, 16 g protein)
“We’re used to working with organizations to develop recipes and flavor profiles that meet specific nutritional standards,” says Chef Dan Zakri, Director of Innovation and head of Sandridge’s culinary team. “We love that challenge, and feel like it’s a privilege to make foods that taste good while contributing to a person’s health and well-being.”
Sandridge Food Corp., is based in Medina, Ohio, and is an industry leader in fresh, prepared foods for food service and private-label retail. It uses a range of processes and technologies – from sous vide for proteins to kettle-cooked soups to high-pressure processing (HPP) – that enable it to reduce or eliminate preservatives for a wide variety of pre-cooked ingredients and recipes that deliver homemade taste and extended shelf life.
For more information, contact Michael Sandridge, [email protected]