Gluten Free in the Medical Community

Today, I had the opportunity to attend a food service staff in-service at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. One of my classmates from college happens to work in the nutrition department at the hospital (where I work in the community health department) and thoughtfully invited me to a training she held this afternoon for her kitchen staff. Very recently, PVHS has taken the plunge into the gluten free world – and from what I saw today, I am very impressed.

 

I got to see first hand what the staff is being taught about gluten free. They were given an introduction on Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance. The big items that were stressed were the risk that cross-contamination causes as well as the importance of strict adherence to a gluten free diet. They also stressed that many people are in the hospital because of Celiac symptoms, and if they are not receiving food that is 100% gluten free…it will prolong or prevent their healing.

 

Currently, steps are being made for both in-patient meals and options for staff and hospital guests in the cafeteria. As of right now, there is a full gluten free menu available to patients staying in the hospital that includes several breakfast cereals, gluten free french toast  and pancakes, omelets and salads, sandwiches, pasta, meat dishes as well as brownies, puddings and popsicles for dessert. As for in the cafeteria, there is a new section with a big orange “GLUTEN FREE ITEMS” sign above it with grab and go snacks and treats.

 

Here are a few of the steps that the nutrition staff has taken that really impressed me:

  • All gluten free ingredients are stored on the top shelf with clear labels on the outside.
  • In each area of the kitchen (freezer, prepared foods, baking) there is a separate book shelf or cabinet designated gluten free and is clearly labeled.
  • There is a work station dedicated gluten free where one of the staff members (a Celiac herself!) does gluten free baking once a week.
  • The staff aims to prepare gluten free meals first thing in the morning as to not be exposed to gluten particles in the air throughout the day. However they do make in-patient meals to order so this is not always an option.
  • All employees have been trained to wash their hands and change their gloves before preparing a gluten free meal.
  • In the kitchen there is dedicated equipment for gluten free such as mixers, bowls, pans, toasters, knives, etc.
  • If there is any chance of cross-contamination in the food prep process, employees have been trained not to think twice, but to just start over.
  • From product manufactures to food preparation, all the right steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the Celiac community.
  • All pre-made gluten items and meals are sealed and stored in a gluten free area to prevent cross-contamination.

 

I am so excited to see Poudre Valley Health System take these steps to ensure safety for patients as well as provide options for their staff and guests. They are planning in the very near future to feature one soup and sandwich each day that is made gluten free. I know that this is just the beginning for them and can’t wait to see how far they will be able to take this. I feel that this health system should be an example to others – in all aspects of their service. I’m proud to work there and will be even happier when I can enjoy a gluten free soup and sandwich on my lunch break!!

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