With hospital stays, Veterans know they can expect exceptional care at VA. And at Audie L. Murphy VA hospital, Nutrition and Food Service is working to elevate its services to Veterans by providing a basic, yet strong comfort: home cooked meals.

In an effort to modernize meal options provided to inpatients, Maria Worley, chief of Nutrition and Food Service, and her team began the process of transforming its operations in October, gearing up for room service.

“There is very little control for some hospitalized Veterans,” Worley said. “Sometimes it seems the TV remote control and meals are the only things that are true choices. We want to be the service that permits the Veterans to choose what they want, when they want it, and served in a friendly and appetizing manner.”

Currently, the team uses the cook-chill method, allowing the kitchen to operate with efficiency and serve inpatient meals at specified times each day. Once room service is implemented, inpatients will be able to work with meal support staff on each unit to place their orders for times that they would like to eat.

Food service workers now cooks

For this transition to occur, the Nutrition and Food Service team must first revamp their operations to support such a strong endeavor. One way to start was to make Food Service Workers cooks.

The Nutrition & Food Service room service team has taken on this challenge with enthusiasm and true commitment to giving the best service and quality they can to the Veterans.

Dexter Harper is no stranger to cook-to-order and, with the help of Executive Chef Carl Conway, he is excited to see the possibilities this change will offer Veterans.

“I think it’ll be very rewarding for our Veterans to receive a higher quality than in years past,” Harper said. “Foods will be a lot fresher, a little more prompt, and they can place their order where they’re at.”

Harper was a part of the team at Des Moines VA that was already offering cook-to-order for its inpatients in 2017. Now, he is a part of the initial changes to the operation at Audie L. Murphy VA and has worked alongside his team through training and learning the new hot food line.

“This transition to cook-to-order is what I came from in Des Moines,” he said. “I can help keep the guys balanced and let them know, ‘It gets a little rough in the transition but I promise we’re going in the direction that’s going to be very beneficial for the Veterans.’”

New cooks learning the process

In addition to Harper and the new team of cooks learning the process of the hot food line, Nutrition and Food Service has implemented a tray line for its cold foods. This portion of the process is being handled by employees like Robert McNeil.

“It’s just little changes, little enhancements that we’re making right now,” Executive Chef Carl Conway said. “But it’s a matter of going from cook/chill to cook it and serve it to you immediately. And the quality, there is no comparison to the quality.”

They’ve only just begun

Even though they have only begun the process, Worley and her team are diligently working to ensure this new service will be truly efficient and effective, leaving Veterans with all their needs met, one meal at a time.

“We will know when we hit the mark when Veterans ask their medical and nursing team to hold their discharge until their next meal,” Worley added. “My staff truly cares and wants to see a smile on every face when they deliver the meals. One of the lines in our Nutrition and Food Service creed is, ‘I give service that says that I care.’ I think embracing that into practice is what is making this transition so successful.”

By Justin Saucier is a public affairs specialist for the South Texas VA

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Published on Dec. 11, 2021

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One Comment

  1. Charles Johnson December 16, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    I’d like more information , also , I would like to be a part of this . I like this , a long time coming

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