Having a thorough and consistent inventory management system for your facility’s disaster meal plan isn’t just recommended — it’s absolutely crucial. The last thing any director or coordinator wants to cope with when disaster strikes is an incomplete emergency meal plan. Such a situation can be stress-inducing at best, and an additional disaster at worst.
The Registered Dietitians of Meals for All encourage all facilities to make National Preparedness Month the month they take a detailed look at their disaster meal inventory. It is imperative to take the time now to identify any elements that are incomplete, out-of-date, and do not meet current regulations. We asked our Registered Dietitians to share some insight on what facilities can do to be better prepared with their emergency meal inventory.
Linda Eck Mills, MBA, RDN, LDN, FADA, Regional Executive for the Midwest Territory (pictured at left) knows from personal experience that even when a facility has emergency food on-site, they may still be under-prepared for emergency feeding.
“Having personally been involved with an emergency that closed roads for days, having a food supply on-site is key,” Linda says. “However, the number and severity of emergency situations is rising across the country. The days of having a three-day supply of food in a nursing home or a four-day supply in a hospital and relying on a Memorandum of Understanding with vendors most likely will not be sufficient.”
This grim reality came true for many facilities this year. When faced with recent tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, or severe tropical storms, healthcare staff soon discovered that nationwide shortages of food resources due to COVID-19 put them in even more disastrous situations.
“Healthcare facilities are discovering that having food for a week or more on-site is key to a less stressful emergency situation,” Linda states. With no way to determine when the pandemic will be over, all facilities must ensure they are better prepared with a long-term, all-hazards emergency feeding plan, without having to rely on outside resources.
Renee Kowal, RDN, Regional Executive for Northeast Territory (pictured at right) highlights additional key weaknesses in facilities’ emergency meal plans. “Healthcare facilities must support a wide range of residents and patients with a variety of health conditions. A facility’s plan must include meals that can be easily prepared for everyone, are consistent with therapeutic diets, and will provide the proper nutrition that they need & deserve in a disaster.”
It is not enough for a facility to simply provide emergency sustenance, Renee explains. “Healthcare providers must also prioritize maintaining residents’ current quality of health. We know stress does bad things to the body, and providing delicious, nutritious food during an emergency is one way for facilities to reduce stress levels all around.”
Facilities nationwide are currently short-staffed due to COVID-19 furloughs and quarantine restrictions. Having minimal staff may make facilities feel like they don’t have time to perform full inventories of their emergency food supply.
However, as Jo Miller, MPH, RDN, Vice President of Nutrition at Meals for All (pictured at left) explains: “A well-managed inventory will actually save staff time managing a facility’s disaster supply on a regular basis. Meticulous inventory management will address loss and waste in real time… and will help eliminate confusion when disaster strikes.” A properly maintained inventory will not only save a facility money, but will also help ensure the proper execution of a facility’s emergency plan, no matter how short-staffed the facility may be.
Consistent inventory maintenance also prevents potentially disastrous surprises during an emergency. As Lee Tincher, MS, RDN, President of Meals for All (pictured at right), explains: “If food service staff ‘borrow’ from their facility’s emergency food supply, it is often not noticed or replaced until completing a periodic inventory. An even worse possibility: the shortage is not revealed until an emergency/disaster is in progress or during a licensing survey.”
Making the time to perform a regular inventory now will help a facility discover any inconsistencies or missing items in their emergency meal plan well before the emergency food supply is needed.
Meals for All is here to support you and your facility during this crisis, and to help facilities everywhere be prepared for the long-lasting effects of the pandemic. It is crucial to be proactive to prevent you and your facility needing to scramble for emergency food when the next disaster strikes. The peace of mind that comes with having Meals for All’s complete, convenient, cost-effective, and regulatory-compliant emergency meal plan is crucial for keeping morale high during stressful times. By ensuring now that your emergency meal inventory will meet the emergency feeding needs of your facility, you will ensure your staff has the ability to focus on operations and other patient needs during your next emergency.
The U.S. is reaching the peak of hurricane season, wildfires are still raging along the West Coast, and any number of disasters can still occur during the remainder of 2020. Call 916-832-MEAL (6325) to schedule a consultation with Meals for All, and start National Preparedness Month off right by ensuring your facility is prepared for all emergencies and disasters!