THE EATBEAT: Challenge at Altru: Making healthful food taste goodThere are dispensers of hand-sanitizer at the large cafeteria entrance on the lower level of Altru Hospital called Prairie Winds. At noon, the place is buzzing with Altru employees and some visitors and outsiders. And there are choices galore, beginning with beverages in a huge refrigerated unit, moving on to a taco bar that gets a fair amount of attention.
By: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald
There are dispensers of hand-sanitizer at the large cafeteria entrance on the lower level of Altru Hospital called Prairie Winds. At noon, the place is buzzing with Altru employees and some visitors and outsiders. And there are choices galore, beginning with beverages in a huge refrigerated unit, moving on to a taco bar that gets a fair amount of attention.
Then there are hot foods and soups. On a recent (Aug. 23) visit, I was attracted to the beef and broccoli stir fry, which tasted very good. The broccoli was done al dente, or just right. It was not discolored. The beef had flavor, but it was a tad tough. And the serving was generous. With it, I enjoyed pineapple chunks from the salad bar in the center of the food center. And milk.
Beyond, there was a sandwich bar loaded with everything that tastes good between slices of bread. And an attendant was waiting to help.
I was having lunch with Altru people who are proud of the new management by Sodexo, a national firm that specializes in food service for large institutions. The manager is Mark Brosseau, who came here from St. Louis. The restaurant now has an executive chef, Alex Zuniga.
The cafeteria has 20 employees, and they make food for three other locations. These are the Altru Expresso bar in the main lobby of the hospital, in the clinic and the Rehab Center. That’s where pizza has made its very welcome debut.
The average check during the noon hour is about $4.25. That’s because some employees bring an item from home and select another. And employees get a 20-percent discount.
This probably accounts for the large number who show up during the lunch hour. The cafeteria is spacious with tones of maroon and light wood, along with wall murals.
All of this may be changed in the next phase of updating the cafeteria.
Food from the kitchen also goes to the rooms of patients. The hospital capacity is 250 patients, and there usually are about 180 free to order food that is delivered within 45 minutes. The food services go one step further. It will deliver meals for $5 for visitors who want to eat with patients.
The menu is extensive, and there are some restrictions for some patients. Mostly, it is a menu with everything a patient or visitor could imagine. It begins with a full breakfast selection including an Altru breakfast egg sandwich. There are soups and salads, there are pasta offerings and sandwiches custom-made along with a “build your own burger” section.
Entrees range from lean ham, roast turkey to beef pot roast and fish fillet.
Foods fall into the Sodexo version of “Mindful Mix.” This is designed to give customers the most volume of food and nutrients for a given number of calories for the goal of good nutrition.
Some customers keep a food diary by downloading the MyFitnessPal app on their smartphones. The search feature that includes Sodexo helps them track their eating objectives.
While the food services team reaches out to promote good nutrition, they know people will eat what tastes good, and they consider that their challenge.
Another year, they indicate, there may be a renovation of the cafeteria. While the facility is part of the day for employees, it is not too inviting to visitors. That, partly, is because of the long, drab hallway in the basement that leads to the cafeteria. You wonder if some colorful wall paintings or something, could brighten the way.
Prairie Winds Cafe
Lower level, Altru Hospital, Grand Forks.
General manager food and nutrition services: Mark Brousseau.
Executive chef: Alex Zuniga.
Hour: Breakfast is 6:30 to 10 a.m.; lunch is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner is 4 to 7 p.m.
Report card: Employees, visitors and patients at Altru can find healthful, economical food. New food director, executive chef deal with the fact that people eat what tastes good to them.
Reach Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 772-1055.