This week’s blog post is contributed by Tim A. Morris. Tim is the Director of Cherokee Senior Services in Canton, GA. Cherokee is one of 33 Congregate Nutrition Programs (CNPs) with which NFESH has been working in Georgia in a statewide project to help improve operations so the CNPs can serve more seniors in need within their current resources.
Cherokee County Senior Services in Canton Georgia first participated in the What A Waste Project almost three years ago. Really not realizing what kind of impact this would make on our Congregate Program but at the time I thought it wouldn’t hurt. For years our Congregate was doing the same thing without even looking at changes. I started there almost five years ago as the Director of Senior Services. I noticed immediately there was a lot of waste in our meal program. What A Waste couldn’t have come around at a more perfect time.
Day one of the program gave us enough feedback to change things immediately. The staff were preparing the plates to the number of clients having lunch and did not serve them until all the plates were put together. There was so much temperature lost from the food by serving this way and there was a mad rush to the microwave to reheat their food. Staff that were taking the plate waste found out from our clients that the food was too cool to heat so that resulted in a lot of waste. We immediately changed the way we were serving the next day. The food was not put on the plate until they came through the serving line. That one move helped tremendously in the plate waste but something was still wrong. We started noticing the items that seem to have the most waste to them and starting switching those out. Even with the changes there were a lot of flaws in our meal program.
It was now time to contract with a new food vendor and what we had learned from What A Waste gave us an edge on who we choose to be our new meal contractor. We put things in our proposal specifically from our results from all the hard work we accomplished from this project. We wanted something different and we were not afraid to change it up. Our new vendor gave us something that not only cut down on pan and plate waste but a new innovated way of serving out meals. The meals came already prepared frozen and the center was supplied with 6 Macrowaves for heating. How this works is we can put 8 individual meals in one Macrowave and they supplied us with 6 of these. You turn these on and put the meals in while the light is blue and in one and half hours later the light turns red and they are ready. The clients absolutely love them and more importantly the temperature is perfect and food is tasty. The end results are very little plate waste and no prep waste. Simple procedures in ordering our daily meals and if we order to many we only pull from the freezer what we need and the rest can be served on another day. The meals are good for long periods of time and each month the center does a mystery meal day to serve the left over frozen meals.
Don’t be afraid of changes that will make your program better. In the past it was too much about what was easier for the staff and not enough on what was best for our clients. Thank you What A Waste for opening our eyes.