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Live Wisely - March 27, 2024

“Beyond the Table” Dining at Goodwin Living

By Alison Liggett Neov, RD, CSG and Alexandra Freiman, RDN, CSG

This National Nutrition Month, we’re looking beyond the table to explore the ways our dining services teams at Goodwin House Alexandria (GHA), Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC) and The View Alexandria (TVA) create a dining experience that is both delicious and sustainable! As Registered Dietitians for Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads and Goodwin House Alexandria respectively, we (Alison Neov and Alex Freiman) work closely with the dining services teams to plan the menus for our dining venues and meal services. That means considering more than just the nutritional value of the ingredients.

“Beyond the Table”—the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month—is the notion that food is more than just nourishment for our bodies. If we look beyond the table, the production, distribution and sustainability of the food we eat has an impact on our environment and our communities. This theme calls us to look at the ways we can reduce food waste and the number of stops between a farm and our forks—practices we already have in place on our campuses.

Farm-to-Fork: Eating Locally and In Season

The notion of “farm to table” eating—prioritizing in-season produce from local vendors—has been around since the 1960s and ‘70s. The reality is that locally-grown, in-season food is more flavorful and nutritious than produce grown on mega farms in faraway locations. Out of season foods tend to be grown far away, and so need to travel longer distances before reaching our plates. This practice contributes to the increasing carbon dioxide emissions we are seeing in our world.

On the other hand, local farms tend to be smaller than mega farms and thus have higher production costs. This in turn means their produce is more expensive. And for anyone managing a budget, whether it’s for your own household or for a large organization like ours, higher prices have an impact on your budget.

In our dining venues at Goodwin Living, we try to find a happy medium. We work with our vendors to source more in-season fruits and vegetables and items from local farms but they are not always able to offer these items consistently. As Goodwin Living Culinary Innovation and Development Chef Brian Patterson says, “you still have to go out of your way to go local.”

Chef Brian oversees the dining experiences across all three Goodwin Living senior living campuses. “We are working on connecting with approved wholesale vendors who specialize in locally sourced ingredients—and wines!” he shared.

Chef Nina Rakotoarisoa, the executive chef at GHBC, agrees with Chef Brian on the challenges of buying locally. “Unfortunately, local produce costs more and can be hard to find from an approved vendor. We hope to cast a wider net with farm cooperatives and find creative solutions so we can feature more locally raised ingredients.”

From Spring through the end of Fall, we also set up small “farmers markets” on our campuses every Friday for residents to buy fresh produce for their own kitchens. Chef Nina loves this practice.

“We purchase through approved vendors like our produce companies that have access to locally grown produce such as apples and tomatoes and eggs and cider,” she said. “Occasionally we will run a special that features a local farm or features particular ingredients such as sprouts and microgreens.”

Reducing Food Waste Before and After the Meal

As we try to help the environment by finding ways to incorporate more locally grown ingredients into our menus, we also have other important practices in place.

Goodwin Living has partnered with Compost Crew since November 2019 to compost organic waste from GHA and GHBC. In partnership with the Green Teams at GHA and GHBC—committees of environmentally-minded residents—we have worked to educate residents and team members on what is compostable and the importance of the practice. To date, we have diverted more than one million pounds of waste from landfills through our composting program.

We also do our best to reduce the amount of food that needs to go in the compost bin. We have systems in place to use leftovers in soups and the employee meal line, so our kitchens generate very little food waste. On the menus at GHA, we also offer the option for people to choose the portion size they would like for their meal. This is a quick and easy way to help decrease the risk of food waste, as many residents prefer smaller meals and find a large plate of food overwhelming. Everyone gets the right amount of food to satisfy their needs!

Moving “Beyond the Table”

As we reflect on our journey “Beyond the Table,” it is evident that our approach to dining at Goodwin Living transcends mere nutrition—it embodies a holistic commitment to health, sustainability and community well-being. By embracing innovation, collaboration and conscious consumption, we continue to redefine the dining experience for residents and team members alike. Together, we can nourish both body and planet, one delicious and sustainable meal at a time.

_______________________

As Marketing & Communications Specialist, Amanda Ranowsky partners with colleagues throughout Goodwin Living to tell our stories and raise brand awareness. From printed collateral to digital marketing, Amanda covers many bases. Before joining Goodwin Living, Amanda worked for a small, family-owned business where she gained experience in content marketing. Amanda’s creative expression extends beyond the office. She is an active member of community theater and chorus groups.

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