Keeping it Local at KDMC

Carrie Stambaugh, Managing Editor

    Every Thursday a special dish is served in the King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) Café at its Ashland campus. Although different each week, the dishes all share one important thing: the ingredients are healthy, fresh and sourced from local farmers who participate in the Boyd County Farmers Market at KDMC later that day. The recipe, with its nutritional information, is also posted on its internal blog for team members, should they want to replicate it.
    “It gives our folks an opportunity to try the produce and try the recipe, and if they want, they can walk right across the parking lot and try that produce from a farmer,” said KDMC Food Services Manager Tonya Callicoat. “This helps our own community’s economic efforts and helps to get that fresh produce to our team members and our patients.” The hospital even offers staff a payroll deduction option to pay for that produce, making it even easier for staff to access healthy, fresh foods.
    It is all a part of KDMC’s healthy living initiative to increase the availability of more nutrient-dense food to hospital workers, patients and the community at large, explained Callicoat, a registered dietitian and nutritionist who has been with the hospital since 2015. She started in the Center for Healthy Living, where she often worked with bariatric center patients trying to lose weight, helping them make changes to their eating habits to embrace a more healthy lifestyle.  
    “I worked with a lot of team members there, and what I noticed is a lot of them eat at least two meals here at the café,” explained Callicoat, when she had the opportunity to move over to food services she took that knowledge with her and began implementing a series of changes within that department “to help get our hospital to move forward with some health innovations.”
    “We want to help promote healthy lifestyle to our employees and community members to increase overall wellness. The healthier people are, physically and mentally, the more satisfied they will be in their life, and spread that knowledge to the next person – it’s a domino effect,” Callicoat said.
    In addition to the weekly use of fresh ingredients in a café dish, Callicoat oversaw the rollout of a KDMC’s own Community Supported Agriculture or CSA program. KDMC’s CSA is a partnership between the hospital and farmers who belong to the market.
    “Team members can buy into this subscription, it lasts for three weeks, and each Monday they pick up a bag of produce picked by the farmer. The response has been so good, so I think we will be doing this again next year,” said Callicoat. Earlier this year, the café sold fresh picked corn from farmers and it sold out in 15 minutes.
    To Callicoat it all proves there is an appetite among KDMC staff for healthy food options. Food options across the hospital have also been changing under her watch. In addition the café, Callicoat oversees the preparation of meals served to patients as well as staff and visitors. In the café, she said, grab-and-go options have been revamped. “Before you’d see chips and candy bars, we do still have those things available, but we’ve increased availability of new items, like more fresh produce, baked chips, veggie straws and fruit cups. Guacamole and hummus cups are something you can find more now as a norm instead of that processed food,” she said. In addition, a new, healthier menu is being rolled out this month that places an emphasis on more vegetables and healthy proteins.
    It’s all in line with helping to nudge “the culture to get to a new norm for healthy choices,” said Callicoat. “I’d like to continue to increase the options of healthy choices within the cafeteria and the access to local food products to our community.”