Hospital Biz: Delivering Patient Food with Heart

April 12, 2016

Hospital Biz: Delivering Patient Food with Heart

Cheryl Kennedy With Provience Hospitals 

For many of our patients, food service employees are one of only a few individuals they’ll see everyday.

By talking to the patients, listening to them, and really trying to meet their wants, Cheryl Kennedy gives her patients more than vitamins, minerals and sustenance. She serves up joy.

“When I enter a patient’s room, I like to tell them my name,” she says. “I ask how they’re doing, and tell them what we’re serving today.”

It's true, that can open a door for complaint. A patient might grumble that she doesn’t eat eggs or that he hates that flavor dessert. What Cheryl has found, though, is that more often than not, patients return her kindness and conversation with some of their own. 

“Sometimes they’ll comment ‘You have a nice smile’ or ‘You’re so kind’ and that feels good,” says Cheryl.

“I know there’s someplace else they’d rather be. If I can help them enjoy that moment, well, that means a lot.”

It’s easy to see how Cheryl’s smile would be noticed. It’s warm, welcoming, and sincere. You can see in her eyes that she truly cares about the patients, and her words confirm that.

Cheryl Kennedy Delivering Food Providence Hospitals1Just the day before, when dropping off a meal, a patient told her that he had tuna in his lunch and he really enjoyed it. Turns out, Cheryl was on meal prep for that round.  “I told him, ‘I made that tuna, I’m so glad you liked it!’” When she got back to the kitchen, she fixed another tuna sandwich for him and put it in the fridge with his name on it to be sure he got it again.

Sometimes she’ll hear complaints rather than praise. A patient may have gotten something they didn’t order or may be requesting something they’re not allowed to have. “I always tell them I’ll check on it,” she says. “I’m not the one who can decide whether or not it’s okay for them to eat certain things, but I let them know I’ll look into it, and I do.”

On another occasion Cheryl was delivering breakfast and a woman said she wouldn’t eat scrambled eggs. “’No problem,’ I said, ‘let me deliver the rest of these meals and then I’ll come back and we’ll figure it out,” says Cheryl.  “I wanted her to know I have other things I have to take care of first, but I did hear her request and I wanted to help.”

When Cheryl finished with the other rooms, she returned with just what the patient asked for and said, “Now let’s make sure we get that order in for tomorrow so we can be sure you get it again.”

Sometimes a patient will like something so much that they want to have two. “I’ll make sure it’s okay, and then I put in that order for two sandwiches or banana puddings. They always like that. They never expect that it’s allowed,” she says.

There are also the trays that go untouched. “I just tell them I’ll leave it for them and if they feel up to it later they can eat it. They’re sick. I’m not gonna give them a hard time,” says Cheryl, conscious of their comfort first. 

After all, Cheryl knows that she’s delivering more than just food. She’s delivering companionship. 


Cheryl Kennedy is a food service worker with Metz Catering who is contracted by Providence Hospitals.