Friday, November 11, 2011

Experience The New "Greener" GBMC Dining Room

One of the most important things I can do as the head of GBMC HealthCare is listen – not only to our patients, but to our staff as well.  Our internal customers represent an important constituency and often have excellent ideas that will help us improve as an organization.

One such idea came from a SICU nurse last year, who shared with me her concerns about the length of time it took for her to get a meal in the dining room because of the long lines at the cashier, and that she barely had enough time to pick out something and eat it before she was due back on the unit taking care of patients.  The cafeteria management team got on it and installed faster cash registers and added new lines at peak times.

Now we have the opportunity to shave a few more seconds off the process by offering a payroll deduction option. Swiping your ID completes the transaction in about one second! Employees can fill out a form, available in the dining room, and within days they will be approved. I’ve signed up and encourage our employees to do the same.

This is just one of several improvements we’ve made recently in the dining room – we’ve come a long way toward making the dining experience more enjoyable for our guests and staff.  There are new menu items, combo meals, and sauté specials; we’ve increased the selection of healthy foods and beverages and are now offering Dunkin' Donuts coffee.  There is new furniture in the dining room, and paper menus have been converted to new electronic menu board monitors, which reduces the amount of paper, laminating sheets, sign holders and ink we would require to produce menus.

In addition to the electronic menus, there are a number of other zero waste initiatives recently completed in the dining room.  We’ve converted condiment packets to Heinz-branded pumps, introduced a coffee creamer pump, converted all medical intern / resident pink meal vouchers into reloadable cards, and are composting kitchen waste at a local facility and not placing with municipal waste.

This week, new recycled fiber Earth-friendly trays were unveiled.  Similar to the trays that many are familiar with from sports stadiums or concert venues, the trays are biodegradable and can be placed in regular trash when the customer is done eating.    Believe it or not, this will help us save thousands of dollars a year!

Of the 3,000 traditional hard plastic trays that Dietary purchased last year, there are only a few hundred left.   At almost $3 per tray, that’s a lot of money that literally just “walks away” every year when people take these trays from the dining room back to their work areas and don’t return them. So please remember – if you are talking “lunch to go”, take a new recyclable tray.  It will help the earth and help us save money.  Better yet, if you have just a sandwich and a drink, perhaps you can do without a tray to carry the meal back to your area.

Mike Forthman, L, with an older-style tray, and Dr. John Chessare, R, with one of the new recyclable trays.
Kudos to our “Green Team”, led by Mike Forthman, Vice President of Facilities and Support Services and to the Dietary team led by Matt Tresansky, Director of Food and Nutrition Services and Ryan O’Hara, the dining room’s retail manager, for implementing these changes which are designed to reduce waste, shrinkage, and cost while maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction. Be on the lookout for more improvements planned for the near future!

Do you have any ideas on how GBMC can become a “greener” or “leaner” organization? Please share your thoughts below.

Finally, my heart goes out to the members of the GBMC family who were injured “in the line of duty” when they were assaulted by patients recently while providing care. The safety of our staff, patients, and visitors is of paramount concern.  Unfortunately, incidents such as these are a problem across America’s healthcare system, with many studies reporting hundreds of healthcare workers being assaulted each month nationwide. In the past year-and-a-half, GBMC has implemented several strategies to make the environment as safe as possible, and in concert with our employees utilizing Safe Behaviors and following the designs for safety that have been set up, we are determined and committed to make our systems of care and our workplace safer. As a result of these attacks, we will again review our practices and policies and make changes to make GBMC safer.


  1. How about a dedicated fryer for French Fries using only vegetable oil where no meat will be fried. This would be welcome by patrons who are vegetarian, Halal or Kosher.

  2. I realize potatoes, rice and corn are cheap, but when two of the four vegetables offered in a day are mashed potatoes and boiled potatoes, we have a problem. I'd appreciate more whole-grain options in the cafeteria, overall. Sushi made with brown rice would be especially lovely!

  3. There are a LOT of vegetarians here at GBMC, and very poor vegetarian choices in the cafeteria.

    All soups and rice dishes served have chicken or beef broth bases. Vegetable broth is delicious and costs the same.

    Nearly all of the hot side options are starches! Potatoes, meat based gravy, lima beans, peas, corn, &/or carrots are all starches, high glycemic index). Hot leafy greens are rare, and often are seasoned w/ pork &/or meat based broths.

    Whole grain rices, pastas, beans (even Lima's), spinach/greens, asparagus & other veg are great if not seasoned w/ meat and smothered in butter/margerine!

    There are so many equisite, healthy vegetarian dishes in the world! Why don't we try to feature one or two a day?

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  6. I really appreciate all of the efforts being made, but one thing that keeps standing out to me is the presence of styrofoam around the campus. Is this something that is being phased out?

  7. Thanks for all the great comments and ideas! I've talked with the staff in Dietary and can report:

    1. We will look into having a dedicated fryer for non-meat items. There may be a problem during the lunch rush and the non-meat fryer may need to be used to keep up with demand.

    2. The Food & Nutrition team will reevaluate the current menu and add more whole grains where applicable. Sushi cannot be made with brown rice, only with sushi grade rice because of the starch content.

    3. We do currently offer some starches and vegetables without any butter or oil. They can be identified through the Just4U logos located on the menu boards. Unfortunately the soups are made with ARAMARK recipes and we are not permitted to alter them. We do offer some soups that are completely vegetarian, which are labeled via the Just4U icons. We will continue to reevaluate the current menu and add more whole grains where applicable.

    4. Due to the rising cost of "greener" alternatives for Styrofoam cups, we are not able to provide them at this time. Please continue to use the GBMC green cups that were provided this and last year to help conserve resources. Along with conserving resources, you will also receive an additional discount on coffee and soft drinks when using the GBMC issued cups.

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