Hospital aims to reduce waste, improve healing with room service

Kevin McClintock

You pick up the phone and dial for room service. You tell the voice on the other end that you’d like a baked chicken and all the fixings, bread and butter on the side. Less than 30 minutes later, there’s a knock on your door. Moments later, a smiling woman is setting down a plate of steaming food right under your nose.

Sound familiar? It should, if you’ve stayed inside an elegant hotel offering room service. But we’re not talking about the Marriott here. Think McCune-Brooks Hospital in Carthage, Mo.

That’s right — Carthage’s new and improved hospital now offers room service to its patients. After 12 weeks of preparation, the service was launched Wednesday morning.

“We feel that by offering the food when thee patient wants it, and what they want, this will help healing time and speedier recovery,” said Anita Demery, head of the hospital’s Food and Nutritional Services. “Food is a healer, same as medicine.”

McCune-Brooks is the only hospital within a 200-mile radius offering this service. The only other Missouri hospitals offering anything similar are located in Kansas City.

Demery predicts hospital-offered room service will quickly become a commonplace among regional or area hospitals.

In fact, “an area hospital has already inquired about (the McCune-Brooks service),” she said.

The process is straightforward. Each new patient receives a care packet, including an extensive menu detailing the new room service program. There’s a number to call, as well as times in which orders can be placed — breakfast items 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., lunch and dinner items available between 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Patients, Demery said, “call us when they’re ready to eat, instead of us telling them when they will eat. They also tell us what they want to eat, instead of us just giving them a short menu from which they can eat.”

This is a complete 180-degree turn from how a majority of hospitals nationwide work. In those places, meals are large, set down in front of patients on a regimented schedule — regardless if the patient is hungry or not.

“If they don’t want milk, we won’t send them milk,” Demery said. “If they don’t need salt or sugar, we won’t send them salt or sugar. If they don’t want that orange, we won’t send them that orange.

“Only what they choose will we send.”

Because all meals are dumped into the trash whether a patient has nibbled on it or not, hospitals are constantly plagued by overwhelming food waste.

“Let’s say you’re in the hospital and you just want a bowl of cereal. In the old way, we had to send you a full course breakfast, whether you wanted it or not,” Demery said. With the new system in place, waste will be “reduced by nearly two-thirds."

All prepared meals — be it a pepperoni pizza, a chef’s salad, a grilled cheese sandwich or roasted turkey entree — are guaranteed fresh; nothing is frozen or pre-made. Food is guaranteed delivered within 30 minutes of a phoned order.

There’s also an additional perk.

“If you’re a patient’s family, and you want to eat when you family is eating, you can order room service — $3 for breakfast, $4 for dinner — and the food will be delivered to you at the same time.”

Family members will have the same menu choices their hospitalized loved one is given.

The idea came from the hospital’s CEO, Bob Copeland, who had seen the program in another hospital. After the new hospital was constructed and opened, the food program was discussed and given the go-ahead. That set in motion plenty of changes, ranging from policies and procedures to how the food is cooked and delivered.

The program is an ARAMARK program, a worldwide leader in award-winning food services inside the health-care industry.

“We’ve taken food responsibility totally away from the nurses,” Demery said. “Food responsibility it totally on dietary now.

“I know it will save on food costs, and save immensely on waste,” Demery said. Best of all, “It will be better for the patients, because they will receive (the kinds of food) they want, when they want.”


There are plenty of hospital food jokes out there, but you won’t hear any of them at McCune-Brooks Regional Hospital.

Below is their new, revamped menu. And a patient’s family members can also eat in the room with their loved one for a small fee.


7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Breakfast snacks range from fresh fruit and yogurt to granola, cereal, oatmeal and Cream of Wheat. There’s also a breadbasket complete with muffins, biscuits, and bagels — even cinnamon rolls. Available sides include bacon, sausage and home fries.

Main courses include fruit and cottage cheese plates, scrambled eggs, several omelets, pancakes, French toast and bacon/egg/cheese sandwiches.

Lunch & Dinner

11 a.m.-6 p.m.

There are an assortment of entrée salads and sandwiches, including grilled chicken Caesar salad to PB&J. Hot sandwiches include hamburger and cheeseburgers, grilled breast of chicken, crispy chicken strips, grilled cheese, hot dogs and hot turkey sandwiches. There’s also pizza: pepperoni, cheese and vegetable.

Traditional entrée dishes include roast turkey, crispy baked chicken, and pasta with several sauces, crispy baked cod, Macaroni and cheese and Salisbury steak with gravy.

Sides can range from french fries and potato chips to coleslaw and mashed potatoes with gravy, among many others.

Sweets include fresh fruit cups, puddings, custard, gelatin, ice cream, sherbet, fresh fruit, applesauce, cookies and several fruit shortcakes.

Beverages can range from fruit juices to tea, colas, coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

Carthage Press