Department Spotlight: Food and Nutrition Services

By: Alana Ridge

August 12, 2022

Group of Food and Nutrition Services workers at Renown pose for a photo.

Nutrition is a vital aspect of patient care. At Renown Health, the Food & Nutrition Services (FNS) teams take their mission of delivering patients high-quality, cost-effective, nutritious and attractive foods to the next level. From a thrice-daily trayline service with a wide variety of delicious food to the personalized dietitian services that ensure every patient gets the nutrients they need for optimal healing and recovery, Renown’s FNS teams at Regional, South Meadows and Rehab are unmatched. 

Food for the Good Fight 

The hustle and bustle of early morning food preparations gears the FNS team up to, as Renown Regional Food Service Worker Molly Kalsman puts it, “provide patients with adequate nutrition to heal.” From morning until nighttime, the team prepares three meals a day along with late trays and snacks. 

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill hospital food, either. Think anywhere from cheeseburgers and salads to pork roasts and baked potatoes. As you can imagine, food of this caliber requires all hands on deck in the kitchen, especially during trayline times, to ensure all patients receive quality meals that meet their individual nutrition needs. “We make an impact with good service and great food,” said Mario Nunez, a Food Service Worker at Renown South Meadows. 

As the food service workers are hard at work cooking and assembling, the nutrition representatives visit each patient to learn their individual dietary restrictions, allergies and food preferences. For Julie Macaluso, Nutrition Representative at Renown South Meadows, “letting the patients choose their meals” is one of the highlights of her job. “We go over meal choices for their stay, so the patient can pick out something they would like to eat and find enjoyable,” added Tara Sprehe, Nutrition Representative at Renown Regional. 

The immense care and attention our nutrition representatives give to every patient paves the way for our clinical dietitians to build a nutrient-dense diet plan based on the individual patient’s preferences. Dietitians are the only licensed providers that can leverage nutrition to treat, manage and prevent illness and disease to improve patient outcomes. Every day, our experienced dietitians “make recommendations in the adjustment of macro and micronutrients in order to best manage a person’s health status in the setting of trauma, diabetes, heart disease and other morbidities,” said Jessica Blauenstein, a Registered Dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition at the William N. Pennington Cancer Institute.

Overall, for this department, the phrase “that’s not my job” will never be heard, according to Lupe Ayala, a Cook at the Renown Rehabilitation Hospital. Day-in and day-out, it’s a massive group effort – and that’s the way they like it. 

Setting the Service Bar High 

Hitting milestones and accomplishments comes naturally to this crew. The FNS team sets the bar incredibly high for food and service standards across the Renown Regional, South Meadows and Rehabilitation hospitals.  

The key ingredient? Synchronized teams that operate like a well-oiled machine. The meticulous trayline schedules and assembly lines, the cooks that put their heart into patient meals, the nutrition representatives and dietitians who ensure patient food wants and dietary needs are being met... the list goes on. And to top it all off, these teams certainly know the meaning of “service with a smile.” 

Their efforts do not go unnoticed. “I am very proud of the team I have,” said Monica Lara-Yanez, Supervisor of Food and Nutrition Services at Renown South Meadows. “They have improved their knowledge and participated in cross-training, and they are very efficient doing their jobs and helping each other. Moreover, they care about the service we provide.” 

One major accomplishment the FNS department achieved in recent years was implementing Room Service Connect, which aids in direct communication with patients, letting them know what foods are available to them during their stay at Renown based on their dietary needs. Locating trays of food has also never been easier. According to Tara Sprehe, “This system is also beneficial for letting food service workers know when a diet has been upgraded, discontinued, changed to NPO status or downgraded. This reduces the risk of giving the patient a diet that is not appropriate for them,” which saves both time and money for the department. 

At the end of the day, the FNS department has one mission, and it’s the same mission we all employ as Renown team members: do it for the patient. 

“It’s all about patient care,” said Jesse Holman, Cook Lead at Renown Regional. “That is the best accomplishment!” 

A Dedication to Renown  

The patients, the providers, and the passion: these are the most common themes that keep the FNS department passionate about Renown and their team. Whether they are just starting out in a career in food service or have established themselves in the clinical field, the FNS department proudly upholds the greatest standards of nutritional care that enhance Renown’s status as a top healthcare leader in northern Nevada. 

“I choose Renown because it is a very distinguished institution with an amazing reputation, offering a lot of benefits and growth opportunities to employees,” said Monica Lara. “It makes me feel proud to say, ‘I work at Renown.’” Renown Rehab Food Service Worker Margretta Corbet echoes this sentiment, adding, “There are good people here with happy dispositions.” 

Many FNS team members are especially enthusiastic about Renown’s robust benefits and career growth opportunities. For Molly Kalsman, working at Renown gives her the experience necessary to enter a career in dietetics. “Food service and hospital experience is encouraged to be accepted into a dietetics internship program, and Renown was the perfect opportunity for me to gain that experience,” said Molly. Carleigh Bates, Nutrition Representative at Renown South Meadows, is on a similar path: “Renown is a vehicle for so many things I am aspiring towards, such as getting my foot in the door for working in healthcare, improving the experiences of patients and gaining experience that will aid in my future goals.” 

Carleigh emphasizes that the team’s commitment to Renown’s mission is at the core of what they do every day. “We impact patient care by providing nutrition to fuel their wellness and improve their stay.” 

Lupe Ayala wraps up this strong conviction from the team very well: “I didn’t choose Renown; Renown chose me.” 

Fight the Good Fight With Us

This future-minded, patient-centric department is growing! The Food & Nutrition Services teams at Regional, South Meadows and Rehab are actively hiring eager, collaborative new team members. Natasha Frisbie, FNS Lead at Renown Regional, reports that the team has “successfully hired and trained 24 new employees in the past three months” and is still expanding. “Teamwork, communication, and enthusiasm are very valuable skills to have in this department,” said Molly Kalsman.  

If you or anyone you know is looking for their next growing career opportunity, apply today!

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