Inpatient Center Chef Serves Up Meals For Staff, Patients, and Families in Need
When Rainbow’s COVID-19 team met back in April to see what they could do to help reduce the daily stressors for staff, patients, and their families, President and CEO Karen Carrig came up with the idea of offering pre-made meals.
Little did she or the rest of the team know how popular those meals would become.
“The response has been outstanding,” said Inpatient Center Manager Angie Zastrow. “Each week, within about 15 minutes, every meal is claimed for either by patients, families, staff or someone in the community who is in need.”
Inpatient Center (IPC) chef Sarah Baechle, besides her daily duties of cooking for patients at the IPC, prepares two different meals a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Staff can email Angie before the end of the day each Friday if they would like a meal, with the number of meals limited to ten both days. It doesn’t take long before both options are filled.
“We never have a problem finding them homes,” said IPC Chef Sarah Baechle. “Karen suggested the actions and Angie and I just ran with it.”
On average it takes Sarah about three and a half to five hours to complete all the meals for one of those days. Meals feed the average family of four and are available for pickup in the afternoon. Then all that needs to be done is to pop the meal in the oven, usually for 30 to 45 minutes, and it’s ready to go.
Favorites have included Sarah’s lasagna rollups, orange chicken and rice, chicken parmesan casserole, beef enchilada, and her latest taco casserole.
Menu planning can be a challenge, but Sarah has help from other staff and volunteers on coming up with the latest dishes for each week.
“I would like to say I’m capable of performing everything alone but that’s simply not true,” Baechle said. “There is a great team that helps accomplish this each week.”
“We want it to be a healthy meal but one that is also quick to prepare in large quantities,” Zastrow said.
Those great meal ideas have kept staff coming back for more each week.
Even though staff has taken full advantage of the meals, they’ve been thinking of their patients and families and neighbors out there that might be struggling and could use a home-cooked meal.
Rainbow Bereavement Counselor Laura Wessels delivered meals to two families who are receiving bereavement services from Rainbow. One was for a single mom whose husband passed away on Rainbow’s services in January.
“It was her birthday so I called Humphrey (Floral and Gift) to deliver flowers to her and then dropped off the meal. She said meatloaf and mashed potatoes were her favorite comfort food,” said Wessels.
The other was for a widower who lost his wife last July and has some health issues, and has been feeling lonely and was tired of cooking his own supper.
“He emailed me the next week saying the Swedish meatballs were excellent,” Wessels said. “We talked for a few moments behind his screen door and he was also grateful to be able to see someone.”
“It is as much about the meal, as it is about connecting with others,” Zastrow said. “Connecting with them so they know they are loved and cared about. We are trying to take a little stress out of the lives of people and ease some of their day-to day-burdens and put a smile on their faces.”
Rainbow’s newest CNA Tracey Wasser donates a lot of her weekly meals to a neighbor who lost her job due to the coronavirus and has four children.
“She thanks me all the time and is so grateful for the free meal once a week to help her family,” said Wasser. “I love helping others, so if I can I will.”
IPC nurse Shannon Matonich dropped off a meal the first week for her new elderly neighbors who are retired and one suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
“I thought it would be nice to take them a home-cooked meal and pay it forward,” said Matonich.
And nurse Joani Robertson picked up two meals for two different palliative care patients recently. One of those patient’s lives alone and hasn’t had her caregiver available to come visit since the pandemic. The other patient has been facing some financial struggles and suffers from COPD.
“She must have called three or four times about how nice the meal was and was very grateful,” said Robertson. “There is so much need and the palliative patients aren’t always eligible or can’t afford in-home caregivers like hospice patients.”
After ten weeks the meals will soon be wrapping up for the time being, but since they’ve become such a hit, it’s a service that the Rainbow team will consider again in the future.
“The feedback has been incredible. Sometimes people forget it truly is the little things that matter,” said Zastrow. “One small act of kindness can make such a difference in the lives of others.”