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Nourishing the caregivers: Hospital café feeds body and soul (Sponsored)

Mary Beth TeSelle
Special to The Union

SNMH Miners Café

Breakfast (7:30-10 a.m.): rotating menu includes waffles, eggs, sausages, oatmeal, vegetable frittata, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls

Lunch (11 a.m.-2 p.m.): rotating menu includes enchiladas, pita bar, curry, Cajun and teriyaki chicken, baked potatoes, and pasta

If “hospital food” makes you think bland and boring, you may want to stop in at the recently revamped Miners Café at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

“It’s been a big hit,” says Noel Slaughter, RD, Director of Food and Nutrition Services at SNMH. “We are getting great feedback!”

That feedback is in response to a renovation of the café itself and an overhaul of its menu and service.

“For years, the café was outdated and inefficient,” Slaughter says. “Long waits, limited menu … We saw an opportunity to improve how we use our space and to improve the service we provide to our employees, our physicians and hospital visitors.”

Slaughter says the long waits, in particular, were problematic for employees with limited break times as well as visitors anxious to return to their loved ones.

So, Slaughter and her team transformed the café into a “grab and go” style, offering a hot food bar, a variety of sandwiches and salads, soups, and freshly made baked goods and pastries.

“Our focus is on providing a variety of items that will appeal to all of our customers in a quick and efficient way,” Slaughter says. “Customers can grab whatever looks good to them, pay and be out the door and back to work or back to their loved ones within minutes.”

But the food isn’t just convenient — it’s also high quality.

“We want to offer food that is nutritious and tasty,” Slaughter says. “Almost all of our food is prepared in-house, and we use as much locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables as possible. In fact, the last 18 months, we’ve used 607 pounds of local produce!”

Sierra Harvest has been a key partner in assisting the hospital connect and purchase directly from local farms.

Slaughter states “This spring we are going to begin partnering with Mountain Bounty Farm to purchase local produce which will be featured on our menu”.

To help transform the café’s menu, Slaughter added Chef Matthew Oates, formerly of the BriarPatch, to the hospital’s team of cooks.

“I really believe that eating well is one of the best ways to stay healthy and is an important preventative measure,” Oates explains. “We are fortunate here in Nevada County to have access to so many incredible local farms. Serving good, nutritious food inside our hospital just makes sense!”

Oates credits the hospital’s team of cooks for making the café’s transformation a reality.

Slaughter agrees, saying that the food her team prepares for hospital staff and physicians is really an extension of the hospital’s health care ministry. “We want to support our employees’ health by offering quick, easy meals that meet their needs. We offer vegetarian soup and salad options every day, as well as keto-friendly items. Meeting dietary needs is a big priority!”

And keeping the café affordable is important too. Slaughter says the café is more of a service than a business venture for the hospital and points to the hot food bar as an example.

“Our hot food bar is $2-3 less than other local options,” she explains.

In addition to the rotating menu on the hot food bar, one of the most popular new items at the café are protein-packed bento boxes. For breakfast, they contain cottage cheese, hardboiled eggs, fruit and nuts. For lunch, the boxes include cold cuts, cheese, crackers and olives.

While the café is only open for breakfast and lunch right now, Slaughter says they plan to do a trial run for dinner hours in May, with the goal of adding dinner permanently in the future.

And the revamping of menu offerings won’t stop in the café … Slaughter says changes are coming to the hospital’s patient menu, too.

“We will be launching a new patient menu in May. We will be using all antibiotic-free meat, no high fructose corn syrup, no dyes and only fresh fruits and vegetables. These are changes that are not only in line with what we are already offering in the café, but they are in line with what our community wants, too.”

The focus on good, nutritious food is paying off. On one recent day, the café served a record-breaking 250 customers.

Slaughter encourages community members to stop by the café and give it a try. “We consider this café a service — to our employees and our visitors,” Slaughter says. “Our goal is to promote healthier eating in health care, and to support and nourish our staff and our visitors while they care for others.”


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