Ottawa’s CHEO Does Hospital Food Right
When a child you love is in the hospital, for any reason, the last thing you need is fits over the wrong colour Jello or broccoli contaminants on mashed potatoes. This weekend, as the darling girl in my life was hospitalized due to pneumonia, the menu at CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) made me cry tears of relief; multiple options, delivered, on your schedule. It made food one less thing to worry about.
Hospital food is a subject I wish I didn’t have so much first-hand knowledge about. Last year’s burst appendix introduced me to the industrial food at both the Ottawa Civic and Ottawa General hospitals. Oh, the joy of lukewarm, processed foods, served… whenever. It was cause to send the man in my life on food recon missions, hollering after him “make sure it’s ORGANIC”. This weekend my favorite three and a half year old was treated to a five day stay at CHEO, where they’ve taken hospital food to all new levels, in a GOOD way.
Gone are the creaking, hot-boxed trolleys and styrofoam bowls of consume, here to stay is “room service”, biodegradable plate-ware and real cutlery. Just pick up your in-room phone, dial CHEO Food Services at 3483 and order wherever the patient desires off the menu. Between the hours of 8AM and 7PM, any combination is delivered to your room in 20 minutes – ish. (OK, sometimes it takes 45 minutes, what do I care when I can get Little Miss Picky-Pants exactly what she wants.)
As food professionals, having a SUPER picky kid is fodder for witty commentary and frequent parental frustrations. Collectively we are a kitchen force to be reckoned with. No one passes up an invitation to dine with us, and this kid could not care less – unless it’s chocolate. A carboholic who specializes in potatoes, she is a self-confessed ‘crackeratrian’ and Cookie Monster. Largely texture driven, she avoids live food (including fruit and vegetables) in favor of all things processed. In short – she’s a child.
Don’t bother writing to me with tips on how to slide those things under the radar, we are on that road and sometimes manage to slip something by her, but that’s not our main concern. We focus on keeping meals and food fun, having multiple options that work and slowly introducing new foods as we go. (When that doesn’t work we use coercion, manipulation and guilt; if it was good enough for our parents it’s good enough for us.) This will pass, some days are better than others, but a crisis is no time to force carrots down her throat, so it was a relief to be able to order kid-friendly fare, delivered to our door at Ottawa’s CHEO.
Menu options include: Pancakes and waffles served, all day. Toast. Comfort food like Shepard’s Pie, Lasagna and items covered in gravy. You can build your own pasta, choose from a selection of sandwiches and subs, and healthy options like soups, salads and individual vegetables; all available on the side. Then there’s items for hard core users: pizza, Kraft Dinner (Kraft Mac & Cheese for my American readers), chicken nuggets, french fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, and let’s not forget sweets. The CHEO Hospital menu also makes a nod towards cultural sensitivity with ‘all beef hot dogs’ and vegetarian options.
For my money the real clincher was bacon, delivered all day. (All hail the healing properties of bacon!)
Along side their Patient Menu (which is delivered free of charge), is a Guest Menu with adult food at reasonable prices (entree & beverage for $7, entree and two sides, beverage and dessert for $10), paid for at your door. True. Genius. Being at your child’s side was never so easy. Is it five star cuisine? No, but is is darn decent food, it’s hot, it’s easy, and it’s only a phone call away.
The Chicken Club Wrap off the Guest Menu was hot, fresh, juicy and well seasoned. Yes, it was actually good food! Frankly, I’ve had much worse in some Ottawa eateries. The Future Hubs and I joked that all we lacked was candlelight. Meanwhile, a certain someone snacked on neon orange macaroni and cheese as we held a cupcake hostage until our demands of appropriate consumption were met.
Sometimes it’s not about WHAT they eat, but IF they eat. As part of a parenting team, we pick your battles and food is not one of them. A happy kid is a kid is a kid that has a better chance of healing.
“Yes, you can have chocolate pudding. No, they don’t have Daddy’s chocolate mousse.”
I can only imagine what this menu must have taken to implement, but it really does work. Nurses shared that it’s cut down dramatically on food waste and, in their opinion, contributed to the overall well being of patients and parents alike. Hats off to the small army of food service workers at CHEO for being an example of how to do hospital food so very right.
It should come as no surprise to those who have experienced the team of professionals at CHEO that their meal delivery system is exceptional. This is a group of people who deliver extraordinary levels of care in everything they do, every single day. We were treated with compassion, kindness and respect without exception; from nurses, orderlies, porters, attending doctors, residents, support workers and even the janitorial staff. It is abundantly clear that these people care about kids and the people who love them.
A very sincere thank you from Mommy, Daddy & Coco (I am The Coco) to the Emergency Team and the staff at 4West who helped us get a little girl well enough to come home to family, where she is bouncing back, and bossing us all around. Thank you for being willing to preform all necessary procedures first on Hello Kitty; who hasn’t slept a wink after being so well oxygenated throughout our stay. We think she’s hooked on gas.
We are grateful for your care and hope never to have to see you again… and we mean that in the nicest way.