How dining services can differentiate your assisted living community

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Scott Priest
Scott Priest

As more and more seniors are seeking the ease and comfort of “aging in place” in a homelike environment instead of a nursing home, the demand for innovative dining services in assisted living and enhanced assisted living communities continues to increase as well.

Here at Home of the Good Shepherd, we pride ourselves on the fact that our dining services are innovative. Our culinary staff members are on-site in each community, and we use only the freshest, local ingredients to create a pleasant dining experience for all our residents.

We partner with numerous local farms, businesses and organizations to purchase dairy products, meat, home-grown produce and other essential items that make our dining experience exceptional. Instead of your typical processed meal that some other, larger communities may serve, we serve only healthy and nutritious meals, such as tuna steaks, rack of lamb, risotto and field green salads, to name a few. We also offer comfort foods, such as Maine lobster macaroni and cheese, homemade cheeseburgers from locally sourced meat and hot buttermilk pancakes topped with strawberry compote and fresh whipped cream.

The diets of many of our residents are limited to modified food because of their health. This restriction can be a challenge for nutritional services, because the attractive presentation of modified food can be difficult — sometimes, it is not very appetizing.

We have met and exceeded this challenge, however, in our puree program. Using only fresh ingredients, the proteins are pureed in a raw state and then baked in a mold. We do not use food thickener with the puree to create the molded foods.

We have discovered that the taste is far more pleasing when fresh ingredients are used, and this approach provides residents with healthy, nutritious, caloric-valued entrées. This process is very different from the traditional puree program, in which the cooked puree was frozen and then reheated and served.

Food is a highlight of residents' days. Having on-site culinary staff members and using local, fresh ingredients, even for those on restricted diets, are two of the ways that assisted living communities can set themselves apart and attract prospective residents.

Scott Priest is director of dining services at nonprofit Home of the Good Shepherd, founded in 1870 and affiliated with the Episcopal Church in Saratoga Springs, NY. The organization currently operates four communities — in Saratoga, Wilton, Moreau and Malta, NY, with a fifth community, dedicated to memory care and located in Saratoga, opening soon. Contact Priest at spriest@hgshomes.com or (518) 450-7360.

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