Morning Pointe Senior Living announced its new latest initiative aimed at making mealtime memorable for residents through locally-grown, farm-fresh vegetables and fruits. The new dining services program will emphasize regionally grown produce for Morning Pointe communities through partnerships with farmers near Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville, and Lexington, Ky.
Morning Pointe has formed a partnership with Chattanooga-based Crabtree Farms, which focuses on sustainable farming and agricultural education.
“We are proud to not only offer delicious and nutritious meals, but also local ingredients that reminds our seniors of life on the farm or homestead,” said Mike Woods, corporate dining director at Morning Pointe.
From late Summer through mid-Fall, food services directors will order in-season local produce to be put on every plate, incorporating the ingredients throughout the day’s meals as well as the “always available” menu.
“Every plate could have a locally grown product,” Mr. Woods said. “Through this program, we can easily serve 20 to 30 percent of our menu with ingredients from local farms.”
Morning Pointe has been building relationships with local farmers and growers for several years to implement the new program in its 28 senior living locations.
“We are proud to announce this initiative that brings the dining experience closer to home for our residents, while planting the seed to grow new partnerships in the communities we serve,” said Greg A. Vital, president and CEO of Morning Pointe. “From preparation to presentation, our dining services program prepares each dish with foods that are both flavorful and healthy – and now locally grown – to ensure mealtime is something our seniors continue to enjoy.”
Morning Pointe’s food service directors were prepped for the new initiative with a daylong educational seminar in Knoxville, led by Jen Russomanno, co-owner and operator of 2 Chicks and a Farm and Garden Delivery CSA.
The Jefferson County-based farm, which specializes in organic, naturally grown produce, has partnered with Morning Pointe’s assisted living and memory care communities in the Knoxville area. Russomanno says that buying local is especially beneficial for seniors.
“For our seniors, many times, they are suffering from chronic illness, or have weakened immune systems,” Ms. Russomanno said. “Feeding them fresh, local, chemical-free food will contribute positively to their health and long-term wellbeing.”
According to the USDA, consuming fresh fruits and vegetables are beneficial to both shoppers and farmers, not only because the food is higher in nutrient and antioxidant value, but also because buying fresh, in-season produce boasts economic benefits by keeping dollars local. But the notion to eat locally is nothing new to the seniors, who tended to gardens and grew fruits and vegetables of their own.
Bruce Fisher, senior food services director at Morning Pointe of Lexington-East (KY), says the residents at his community are given opportunities to assist with the preparation of their meals, from snapping beans to shucking corn.
“Mealtime to this generation is still an event,” Mr. Fisher said, recalling his own Southern family traditions. “It’s a social hour. If you were hungry or not, you were at that dinner table.”
Dining services is a part of The Lantern at Morning Pointe’s purposeful programming, and Mr. Fisher and Woods agree that fresh food is effective in recalling the seniors’ positive life experiences.
“Food can be a very powerful tool to stimulate past memories,” Mr. Fisher said. “If you cook something and they remember something like, ‘My wife used to cook chicken and dumplings,’ it’s just like that. It goes back to the Meaningful Day™ where you cooking food that our residents used to eat, and prepare it the way they used to prepare it.”
The farm to table initiative is currently in place, and will be a model for Morning Pointe’s new senior campuses moving forward.
“With this program, we’re going back to our roots,” said Mr. Vital. “We want to show importance to our residents traditions and values by bringing this wholesome dining experience to the table.”