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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Hospital Food Is No Joke at the Houston VA

November 2, 2011

Food System

Food Service Worker and Army Veteran Dennis Joseph delivers a hot meal to Air Force Veteran John Krimm. “The new food delivery system allows us to get food to patients faster and the food is fresher,” said Joseph.
PHOTO BY: Quentin Melson, Public Affairs Specialist (TCF Intern)
STORY BY: Quentin Melson, Public Affairs Specialist (TCF Intern)

HOUSTON - Hospital patients do not normally look forward to mealtime, but at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC), patients are being treated like valued guests when it is time to eat. The MEDVAMC recently began use of a new meal transportation system that keeps each food the right temperature and speeds delivery. The new $1.4 million food cart system was installed in early August and provides the latest technology for health care meal service.

“The staff in Nutrition and Food Service is proud to support of Nation’s heroes by providing meals of the highest quality to our inpatient Veterans,” said Caroline Nelson, M.S., R.D., L.D., Chief of Nutrition and Food Services. “The new equipment allows us to provide timely and appetizing meals while ensuring important food safety standards are met.  Keeping all foods within appropriate temperature ranges is key to the provision of quality care. Nutrition plays a crucial role in the healing and recovery process. Proper equipment, such as the new delivery system, is needed to provide the best nutritional care for the Veterans we are privileged to serve.”

The Burlodge B-Pod Rethermalization System is a docking station system that uses state-of-the-art technology. Food transportation carts are nested into a docking station that alternately warms the food meant to be hot and cools the food meant to be cold.

When a food cart is ready to be delivered, it is picked up by the Automated Transport System (ATS). The ATS is a robot that delivers food carts to the ATS room where they are walked to patient rooms by food service workers.

“The new food delivery system has many advantages over the previous system,” said Arthur Floyd, food service worker and Navy Veteran. “The food delivery carts are more lightweight; I can actually push one with a single arm. That was impossible with the old carts.” 

“Another advantage is that we can get food to patients faster and the food is fresher,” said Dennis Joseph, a food service worker and Army Veteran. “The new carts are also safer; they are shorter allowing us to look over the tops so we don’t run into anyone or anything.”

The new carts have a high velocity motor that drives a thermo-convection forced air ventilation system to ensure consistent and even heating and cooling.  This ensures patients’ hot foods are kept at 135 degrees or higher and cold foods at 40 degrees or lower. The staff takes full advantage of all of the updates of the new food system.

“I love the new system - it’s very effective,” said Nutrition and Food Services Dietary Supervisor Don Williams, C.F.E., C.H.M., who is also a Navy Veteran. “The new carts can hold up to 24 trays at a time which means food service workers can deliver more patient trays faster and more efficiently.”

Employing 80 people and delivering more than 1,600 meals a day, the Nutrition and Food Services’ installation of the new food cart system is yet another example its constant endeavor to improve patient nutrition, satisfaction, and well-being. These efforts have not gone unnoticed by the patients.

“The food has been great,” said Clarence Levy Corbin, a World War II Veteran of the Army. “The service has been great. I have no complaints.”

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Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 130,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, Richmond, and Texas City, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged almost 1.3 million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2011. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit