At first glance, New Community Extended Care Facility appears to simply be a four-story nursing home that serves residents with an Alzheimer’s disease and dementia day program, subacute care and rehabilitation services.
What most passersby miss, however, is the frenzy of activity taking place below, at the basement level, where the kitchen of Extended Care pulsates with activity as Executive Chef Joe Rodriguez and Food Service Director Jackie Henry lead a team that serves and feeds a vast network each day.
Rodriguez, a long timer at NCC, and Henry, a relative newcomer, have forged a crucial partnership to operate the hub of New Community’s food services where a typical day’s work includes the following: providing three square meals to residents of the 120-bed capacity skilled nursing facility; packing and delivering some 200 breakfasts, lunches and snacks to New Community’s two early learning centers; fielding outside catering requests; and offering a hot home-style meal to the public for a reasonable price at the Culinary Cafe.
And that excludes special events that regularly take place around New Community, ranging from social gatherings to staff appreciation events and board meetings—all of which require meal preparation provided by the Extended Care Food Service staff.
It’s not an easy load to carry but Food Service did receive a nod of approval from state inspectors who visited Extended Care earlier this year for their annual unannounced inspection. They found no deficiencies in the kitchen, according to Administrator Robert Smolin, who cited the state report.
“We all feel—not just me—very grateful,” said Rodriguez, who has worked at New Community for nearly three decades. State inspectors will often make a beeline for the kitchen of any facility they visit and closely examine for sanitary conditions but also request detailed documentation of specific food items, quantity, nutrition, temperature and other information.
“It put a lot of pressure on people but we manage,” Rodriguez said. “Every day of the year we have to be prepared because we don’t know when they’re going to walk in here,” he added.
A major part of Henry’s duties is ensuring that Extended Care follows those state-mandated guidelines, which specify the layout of the space and the number of inches apart certain objects must be located from either the kitchen’s ceiling or floor.
With 23 years of experience in food service, Henry said she’s amazed that Rodriguez constantly accepts requests and makes an effort to never turn down an order.
Henry has worked at Extended Care for about two years.
“He always finds a way. He just amazes me,” Henry said of Rodriguez, who is 80.