Cura’s Enhanced Safety Practices


Cura Celebrates National Safety Month

As Cura teams begin to reopen hospital and senior living cafes and dining rooms, our operators continue to keep our residents, patients, and guests safe!

During June’s National Safety Month, Cura, a senior living and acute care dining specialist, was one of the first food service contractors to step up with a fully developed COVID-19 playbook and video training series to educate all staff.  According to Cura’s Executive Safety Sponsor Michelle Doleniak (MA, RD, LDN), many of the changes we have made to our foodservice operations will continue, and be adopted as the new “normal.”

For example, seating arrangements in the dining areas changed in conjunction with the social distancing guidelines.  “Although we have lifted restrictions on the number of guests that can sit in the dining areas, other safety steps continue to be followed including the installation of plexiglass barriers at cash register stations, the removal of salad bars, and eliminating self-service stations,” she says.

Cura repurposed these “help yourself” stations by pre-portioning and pre-packaging to-go containers with salad leaf base, smaller ramekins of toppings, from diced grilled chicken to fresh veggies and beans. These areas are frequently wiped down. So, guests are making their own salad, just in a slightly different way.  “It still has the appearance of the salad bar, but it’s safer,” Ms. Doleniak says.

In other Cura-managed cafes, made-to-order salad bars are staffed with servers who stand behind a salad bar line (and plexiglass barriers) with silver bowls, ready to mix individual salads, all of which are visible—at a distance—to the customer.  Chefs have even developed planograms for staff, so if a customer selects a composed salad, all the components are easily tossed together in the right portions. This allows for a level of customization—and conversation—that corresponds with the comfort level and safety of each customer.

The expansion of grab-and-go programs, like Cura’s Heat at Home, continues to be a popular alternative for those who prefer to dine in the comfort and safety of their homes. Packages are labeled with reheating and food storage instructions to keep consumers safe.

Cura also alerts consumers to what food should be refrigerated or kept frozen; keeps food temperature logs; and has proper hot and cold holding equipment to transport food and keep at the appropriate temperature out of the temperature danger zone.

In addition to delivering a safe dining services experience, Ms. Doleniak talks us through Cura’s rigorous cleaning and sanitation protocol that meet regulatory guidelines and prevent cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses.  “We partner with Ecolab for approved cleaning processes by location.  We also have a strategy for more frequent cleaning, and ensure we are using the appropriate and “safe” cleaning chemicals that meet the CDC guidelines.”

At press time, Cura is celebrating many of its successful re-openings safely!   Enjoy a 15-month journey from a Cura-managed community.  The team’s spirit was never diminished during COVID.  In fact, they came together and rallied when their residents needed them most!

After 15 long months, residents at Presbyterian SeniorCare’s Longwood at Oakmont in Verona, PA, were thrilled to finally be able to dine “in person”.

According to Mary Kay Grippa, general manager of dining, the pandemic was challenging for the staff who prepared and delivered 100 boxed lunches and 300 dinners daily to five neighborhoods spreading across the 60-acre campus.  “We were fortunate to employ many college students who were able to work because they were learning remotely.”  Of the 134 hourly staff members, 65% are college students who are majoring in nursing and healthcare from schools like Pitt, Duquesne, Penn State, and Clarion.  Ms. Grippa even employs a nursing home administration major who enjoys working with residents in the memory support neighborhood.

Reopening dining also presented its obstacles. The goal was to eliminate high-touch areas, such as the salad bar and beverage station.  The scatter system food configuration lends to further eliminate the need to touch anything.  Residents can visit the station of their choice and verbally make their selection to the dining server.

During the reopening celebration, residents could visit all stations that offered fresh-dough Margarita pizza, made from scratch andouille and corn chowder soups, and design their own deli.

Residents also enjoyed a summer salmon and berry salad with a lemon vinaigrette.  The most popular was the action station where Executive Chef Ryle David prepared a Mediterranean chicken and pasta, and grilled favorites to order!

The Perked Coffee bar and barista is also open energizing residents with freshly brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino, chai, lattes, smoothies, and milkshakes. 

Though residents were excited to come in the dining room, they were especially happy to see and visit with our student workers who are applying what they learn in school,” she says.

Dining team members were equally excited to serve their residents in person.  “Just talking to residents face to face was awesome.  I also had the pleasure of introducing myself to new residents, who never experienced anything but a food delivery due to the pandemic.  I walked them through the dining room and our concepts.  Speaking with residents and making a connection with people – good or bad – I want to hear from them.   It’s how we learn to enhance services to residents.  This is why I got into this business,” Ms. Grippa says.