With a heart as big as the popularity of her homemade mashed potatoes, Our Lady of Peace Food Service Director Rossana Ackerman serves up food that nourishes the body and soul.
Knowing that the meals her staff makes are the final bites patients will take at end-of-life, her team strives to make them as familiar, as they are delicious, full of the flavor of happy memories.
The food service staff is diverse. Rossana grew up in Peru. Marcy Torres is from Mexico, and with roots in Minnesota, Robin Haynes has served OLP patients for 30-years. Rossana say, “We come from all over, and we cook good food together.” That good food includes casseroles/hotdishes made from the recipes of the mother of a retired OLP cook.
Homemade mashed potatoes and gravy are the most requested comfort food, with poached eggs, the daily hotdish, and homemade chicken noodle soup close seconds. Pancakes, waffles, and Root Beer Floats are also popular on a daily basis. Rossana recalls, “A while back, a patient called me to her room and said, ‘I want you to know that you make the most amazing mashed potatoes, just like my mom used to make.’ I will never forget the look in her eyes. It is the most memorable moment in my seven years at Our Lady of Peace.” Rossana immediately shared this story with her staff, so they could also feel the impact of their cooking. She says, “People find comfort in food because it brings back memories of meals they enjoyed with their families.”
The OLP kitchen has a schedule of menus, that includes Jell-O and parfaits for patients who need soft foods because they can’t swallow well. And, most special requests are accommodated, including occasional trips to pick up fast food, including an Arby’s meal on a patient’s birthday. Rossana says she wants people to have what they want, and sometimes a family member makes a special request because they want to bring their loved one something, knowing it is their favorite. According to Rossana, whether the patient eats it or not is irrelevant. It’s simply about seeing it on the plate and providing the opportunity to offer it with love.
Rossana and her staff strive to make “whatever the patient wants,” including foods requested by patients from around the globe. “We can do this because we have just 21 beds, but we also do it because it’s important.” Helping with the process are aids Cinnamon, Ronaldo, Julia, Peter, and Barnisha who double check the menus, process special requests, and bring orders to the kitchen for the cooks to prepare. They also make sure that everything on the menu, and the special requests get on the trays.
Rossana went on to express the importance of food safety, and pride in the fact that Minnesota inspectors continually say, “I’ve never seen such a clean kitchen.”
Comfort food made with a large scoop of empathy is served at OLP by a team that does their very best every day. Rossana says, “People ask me how I can work in hospice and I say, angels are here. You breathe kindness in this place.”