Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals, Meals on Wheels Partner to Ensure a Happy Thanksgiving for Seniors

November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner is normally a large production – even if it is for just an extended family of 20 to 30 people.

The Culinary Wellness staff at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital cooks for 450 that day – in addition to the normal meals served to patients and staff. The hospital partners with Meals on Wheels to cook meals for the county program. On a normal day, approximately 220 meals go out of the Clinton Township hospital’s kitchen. On Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the number doubles.

Through the Macomb County Senior Nutrition Program, Meals on Wheels delivers 1,400 meals daily throughout the county.

“We rely on our community partners with large kitchen operations,” says Katherine Benford, Director of the Senior Nutrition Program. “It is difficult to find places to contract with that can handle the volume we need and we are pleased to have had this relationship with Henry Ford Macomb since 1996. It really makes a difference to seniors who do not have a place to spend the holiday.”

Meals on Wheels meal preparation occupies a separate area of the kitchen because the menu is different than the hospital menu, notes Henry Ford Macomb Culinary Wellness Director Julie Carrigan.

“We are happy to provide this service for the community,” Carrigan said. “We run a very efficient kitchen and our staff is extremely engaged in the process.”

It does take some extra hands to produce the additional holiday meals, but employees are happy to come into work knowing an area senior will enjoy a delicious holiday meal.

A family tradition

Another Henry Ford Macomb employee participates in a different part of the process. For more than 20 years, physical therapist Diane Anklam and her husband, John, have volunteered for Meals on Wheels.

“We started when the kids were little,” said Diane, who lives in Sterling Heights.

She said over the years, her children have continued helping out, along with various other family members and friends. It has become a holiday tradition. The Anklams distribute the food. They take the meals from the kitchen and make sure each driver has the correct cargo.

Feeding the hungry all year round

The Macomb Food Program serves people in need of food throughout the county through its network of 55 pantry distribution sites. Last year, it was able to feed 58,890 households, which included 187,040 individuals.

Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals joins other members of the Michigan Hospital Association in the annual Harvest Gathering Food Drive. This year, Henry Ford Macomb employees, physicians and volunteers donated 4,461 pounds of food and 67 pounds of personal items.

Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals staff work with the food program all year long. Employees also volunteer to work in the warehouse getting the food ready for distribution.

The final stage is loading volunteers’ cars with the food. Each senior will receive a hot meal and a boxed lunch for later. Meals on Wheels volunteer Bruce Hopkins (center) gets some help loading his van, (from left) Henry Ford Macomb Culinary Wellness Supervisor April Hossack and Meals on Wheels volunteers Jessica, Ed and Diane Anklam.

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Henry Ford Macomb Culinary Wellness employee Jacqueline Schoenherr finishes loading the case that keeps the meals hot until they are transferred to the volunteer drivers.

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Henry Ford Macomb Culinary Wellness employees CharNeka Jackson (left) and Renee VanOverbeke have years of experience putting Meals on Wheels trays together – on holidays and all year long.

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Henry Ford Macomb Culinary Wellness employee Jacqueline Schoenherr puts the final touch – gravy – on each Meals on Wheels meal before sealing it.