This rehab center grows and cooks its own veggies
Tina Newcombe with resident Elsie Medeiros.
If you stop by JML Care Center in Falmouth on any Tuesday, you may smell the scent of freshly baked wheat bread, a reduced-sugar pie, chocolate chip cookies or other creations drifting through the hallways. Welcome to Tasty Tuesdays, one of the three nutritional and educational programs offered at the facility.
Activities Assistant Mary Almeida started Tasty Tuesdays in 2015.
Most of the patients on Almeida’s floor are short-term because they are there for rehabilitation. Many of the patients have chronic diseases such as diabetes and may also have issues with their appetite after discharge from the hospital, she said.
“While many have lost their appetite, some may be taking medication that alters their taste buds,” she said.
Almeida’s goal is to stimulate their appetites, provide tasty nourishment and expose patients to new foods and recipes that they may not make at home.
“It’s about providing food that raises their senses and in turn, entices them to eat more,” she said.
Recently, Almeida joined forces with Julianna Coughlin, RD, a dietician at JML, to do the Harvest of the Month program that highlights a local vegetable or healthy food. Almeida and Coughlin prepare all of the dishes and both deliver the nutritional product to the patients.
The first month, they made and delivered strawberry smoothies.
“Each patient received about two to three ounces to try,” said Coughlin. “We really picked a good recipe for the first time because it was enjoyed by all the patients and staff.”
They both made an avocado/cucumber gazpacho the second month to highlight the cucumber.
An Educational Component
While Almeida delivers the tasty drinks, Coughlin visits with each patient.
“When Julianna goes into the rooms, she gives them all the facts and the nutritional benefits of the serving. They get one-on-one interaction and the patients enjoy it so much,” said Almeida.
Both have a background working with children and found their experiences could lend themselves to the Tasty Tuesdays and the Harvest of the Month program.
Almeida, a former pre-school teacher, developed her program by using information she gathered teaching children’s cooking classes and has altered recipes to meet the dietary needs of the patients.
Coughlin used the Harvest of the Month program, which is part of the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, during her internship in the public school systems. The program encourages and exposes students to healthy food choices, while supporting local farmers.
A chosen fruit or vegetable is highlighted each month and the site gives its history, provides recipes and information about the ingredients and the dietary benefits.
Sensory Baking Program
Meanwhile, upstairs on the second floor, Activities Director Tina Newcombe, ADC, has a sensory baking and cooking program every Tuesday. She gathers residents in the activities room that includes a stove and sink where she can bake and cook.
“Many of the residents have Alzheimer’s and the stimulation of tasting, smelling and holding the food is really good for awakening memories,” said Newcombe. “On the day I visited, residents were enjoying the scent of chives, basil, and parsley from the garden they planted this spring.”
She is looking forward to the successful harvest of the three gardens she and the residents are maintaining. They have two buckets of vegetables on the second floor patio and raised gardens on the first floor patio in the back of the building.
Vegetables include three varieties of tomatoes, zucchini and acorn squash, cucumbers and eggplant.
Elsie Medeiros, a resident who helped plant the garden and continues to weed on Fridays, commented on the size of the two green peppers that are waiting to turn red. She said she remembers her father’s garden full of all kinds of fruits and vegetables including sweet corn, watermelon, strawberries and blueberries. She would pick the berries while her father harvested the corn.
“I loved it,” she said.
The gardens will benefit all three programs at various times when recipes call for some of the ingredients. The Tasty Tuesdays’ group recently had cucumber sandwiches and while the residents’ garden cucumbers weren’t ripe yet, they were able to use garden scallions.
“It’s all about food, what a natural way to unite people at the kitchen table,” said Almeida. “It’s just the thing to perk up everybody’s day.”
[Featured Photo: Julianna Coughlin RD and Mary Almeida, activities assistant prepping in the kitchen.]