312 - 540 - 4400

IFMA Healthcare Live Conversation Recap

Managing diverse operations, food inflation and changing consumer dining preferences resulting from the pandemic were among the topics discussed during IFMA’s Healthcare Live Conversation which took place on February 2. Moderated by IFMA’s Charlie McConnell, featured speakers included: Amy Kotterman, director of customer experience, United Church Homes, Marion, OH; Erica Block, Senior Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Rush University Medical Center and Rush Oak Park, Chicago; and Tim Schoonmaker, Director of Nutrition, Manatee Healthcare System, Bradenton, FL. 


Manatee and Rush have 1,281 beds among their four hospitals. They also operate restaurants, cafeterias, food halls and catering to serve staff, visitors and the community. United Church Home operates 15 senior living centers with full meal service  


Rush is back to full service in its restaurants and food halls. Manatee has not been as fortunate. “Some of our formats are not open,” said Schoonmaker.


“The issue is staffing. We don’t have problems hiring people but we cannot keep them. There are so many employment opportunities that people just leave for something that pays better.” 


Food inflation has caused all to rethink their diverse operations. Block said, “We are holding food costs for the patients and have been asked not to increase prices in our retail operations, so we have been changing some recipes. We are doing a meatloaf which is a meat and mushroom blend, which is less expensive and more plant-based. At retail, we are trying to increase the average check by offering combos and merchandising impulse products at checkout.” 


United Church Homes experienced 17.5% increases in food costs in September; 13% in December. “We are removing items that are higher when possible,” Kotterman said. “There are alternative ways to get seniors their protein.” She added that some residents continue to eat in their rooms, even with the waning of the pandemic but that food consumption has improved with friend and family visitation. “People don’t eat when they are lonely,” she said.