Early in the pandemic break, it was apparent for Ventura County that if COVID-19 took hold, that the dietary staff at Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital, (public hospitals that are a part of the Ventura County Health Care Agency’s health and hospital system in Ventura County, California) would not have the capacity to serve patients, plus patient surge, plus feed staff. The Dietary department’s first priority is patient care first and foremost, but it is important for doctors, residents, nurses and staff to access meals as well.
EWA Amy Towner, Chief Executive Officer, of The Health Care Foundation for Ventura County’s heard about the problem, and she started exploring options to get one pre-made, per person meal delivered to each campus (a total of 1,400 meals per day).
Local World Central Kitchen Director of Procurement, and locally renowned chef Jason Collis, reached out to see what the challenges were and how WCK may be able to assist. WCK had just successfully served meals for the cruise ship COVID passengers docked in Long Beach, CA and understood the complexities of observing infection control practices in preparing food safely for WCK staff and cruise passengers.
Towner encouraged them to engage local restaurants and caterers, “teach WCK best practices in infection control and have them be a part of the healing in Ventura County so we can thrive as a county going forward as these infection control practices will be a part of our new normal.” Collis said there have been similar programs in other areas and that they may be able to be modified for hospitals and the frontline workers. He went WCK leadership and they came back with a resounding yes, that they could assist and donate one meal a day during the pandemic to our workers filling a potential disastrous gap.
It was a huge success!
Local restaurants and caterers quickly became approved vendors of WCK, trained in quality and infection control for healthcare, and rolled out a mass operation to keep their doors open, employees employed and vendors still engaged all while nourishing the frontline healthcare heroes as they cared for the sick.
WCK transacts the pickup and transport food in refrigerated trucks to hospital docks where safe social distancing and infection control handoff practices are implemented. Hospital staff usher the prepared food to a makeshift distribution site in the cafeteria designed with cafeteria table and chairs food lines with six-foot markers on the floor. Hospital departments have a designated time and person who gathers meals for their team on carts and brings meals to their department.
The entire lunch procession of 1,400 meals is completed in 40 minutes and the staff have loved the meals and look forward to frequenting the restaurants participating.
WCK has loved this concept and could duplicate it around the globe. The pandemic has severely affected the supply chain and hospitals cannot go without food and the state’s guidelines for food reserve are insufficient in a pandemic with supply chain challenges.
This is an example of the power of non-governmental organizations like WCK filling a huge void in the fabric of society at an unprecedented time.
Engaging local chef artisans helps not only the recipient of the meal, but that one meal is feeding multiple mouths (restaurant, employees, employees’ families) with the circle effect of nourishment of a community, by a community, for a community.