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IFMA Brings Companies Together to Create Foodservice Solutions

Over the last five months, a small group of foodservice professionals have been getting together to talk about bowls – specifically, nutritious and tasty meals in bowls that can be easily assembled in healthcare facilities. They’ve collaborated on ingredients, bringing their own products to the table and suggesting ways to combine what they make with the products of other companies. They have been consulting with teams in healthcare kitchens and tweaking initial ideas to meet specific needs.


They've also been listening to one another to plan how to build bowls where everyone contributes. According to team member Lindsay Hanson, from SupHerb Farms, “There’s really no reason for everyone to come up with solutions alone when we can share ideas and build something together.”


A pilot program is designed in part to address labor shortages in health facility kitchens by supplying easy-to-assemble and healthful meals in bowls. Putting the meals together will be quick and simple, all the ingredients are supplied and the need for a lot of prep work has been eliminated.


Operating under the auspices of the International Foodservice Manufacturer’s Association (IFMA), project members, in addition to Lindsay, include Matt Christensen, Wayne Farms; Logan McCoy, Nestle Professional; Matt Obergfell, Hormel Foodservice; and Ben Shanley, Meristem Packaging.


This group has been collaborating with Michael Vetro, St Jude Children’s Hospital; Sara Ashbeck, Gunderson Health; and Tim Schoonmaker, Centra Health to ensure the end products meet the unique needs of the healthcare foodservice segment. Initially, the pilot provides ingredients, menus, and even the actual bowls (biodegradable, of course, but also capable of holding heat). The feedback from working kitchens has been invaluable.


“We’re starting with about 20 menu bowls, everything from ‘American Comfort’ to ‘Plant-Based’” said Matt Obergfell. “After talking with the healthcare teams, we’re working to simplify recipes, removing terms like ‘salt to taste’ in favor of actual measurements - things like that. We want to offer the best products possible that are super-easy to execute.”


If successful, the project can potentially scale up to meet the needs of hundreds of facilities and branch out to other institutions like schools and workplace cafeterias.


All participants are from member companies of IFMA who serve on the Healthcare Menu Development Committee. Speaking for the Association, Charlie McConnell, Senior Director of Insights & Best Practices, said, “We believe bringing the industry together to meet challenges and build solutions like these healthy bowls is part of our mandate. IFMA serves our industry and helps our industry serve the larger community.”


For operators and manufacturers interested in learning more about the ongoing council work and access to upcoming resources, visit IFMAworld.com/council, or contact Charlie McConnell at charlie@ifmaworld.com.