Easy-to-access grocery supplies and meals for Torrance Memorial employees.
Written by Robin Heffler I Photographed by Vincent Rios
Given the long, demanding work days, as well as long lines to purchase
often limited food and household supplies, the Torrance Memorial Food
Services team realized employees needed more than childcare to relieve
their stress at the outset of the pandemic.
“I had been in a grocery store and saw bare shelves,” says
Johanna Johnson-Gilman, director of Food & Nutrition Services at Torrance
Memorial Medical Center. She remembers hearing from a colleague at Hoag
Memorial Hospital Presbyterian that the Orange County medical facility
had received surplus food supplies, which it then offered to its employees.
“I thought, ‘We have access to suppliers,’” says
Johnson- Gilman, who is also an employee of Sodexo, an international company
that manages food and nutrition services and has significant experience
with emergencies. “What if we sold items at cost to ease the stress
of our hospital employees who were facing the challenges of accessing
essential food and supplies?’”
That idea was the seed for what would bloom into Helena’s Micro Market,
set up at Helena's Bistro which closed for food service for a few
weeks. The market opened on March 16 and received about 500 orders for
items including fresh vegetables, milk, bottled water, juice, eggs, bread,
pasta, rice, soup, sliced deli turkey, peanut butter, jam, oatmeal, pies
and cakes, as well as toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer.
The response was 10 times what Johnson-Gilman was expecting. “The
first day,” she says, “we had people who cried when they picked
up their items, saying, ‘Thank you. This means so much.’ We
know many hospital workers whose workloads have grown, or their work time
is so stressful, and they haven’t wanted to deal with what they
may or may not find at a supermarket. We’re glad to be part of a
community in which we support one another and encourage resilience.”
Ready-made meals were another popular offering of the market. Among the
selections, which changed daily, were teriyaki bowls, taco salads, rotisserie
chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables, lasagna with salad,
vegetarian options and desserts.
In addition, thanks to the Torrance Memorial Foundation's management
of commnunity donations, hospital employees have received complimentary
meals from local restaurants, which they have enjoyed eating at their
work stations. Employees who choose to go to the cafeteria, Helena’s
Bistro or Yang Café must observe social distancing guidelines.
By late May, orders for Helena’s Micro Market were down by 70%, reflecting
community markets were now better stocked. As a result, the micro market
began scaling back the items it offered, depending on what was selling.
“We’re always listening to what the need is,” Johnson-Gilman says.
She is also proud the micro market has set an example to be followed. “We’ve
shared the micro market concept with our counterparts locally and nationally,”
she says. “We were among the first to offer this and served as a
model. Now hospitals all over the country have implemented the idea. So
the impact has been huge.”