The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine contacted us to advise and manage an epidemiological feeding study that was already underway and not as efficient as it should be.
Epidemiological feeding studies work like this: the participants are given a specific diet to see what effect it has on their health. For this particular study, to ensure accurate conclusions, EVERY meal was provided by the study and participants were forbidden from eating any food not provided by the study.
With an average of 18 participants in each cohort, and 3 meals plus 1 snack per day, and a 7-day menu, that’s an average of 504 meals that needed to be provided each week. But wait, each meal required an average of 5 items, so each participant needed 140 food items per week: that’s an average of 2,520 individual food items leaving the facility each week. Most of these items needed to be weighed and portioned to align with each participant’s individual calorie needs. Many of these individual food items were purchased commercially and just needed to be portioned, but of the 140 food items that each participant needed each week, 40 different food items needed to be prepared and properly portioned. Add to that the fact that participants sometimes dropped out or changed their calorie requirements, and we had too many moving parts to reliably keep track of.
What they had was a team of dedicated individuals working as hard as they could to make sure that everything was prepared and ready for the participants on time. What they needed was a system.
After 1 week of observation during the initial consultation, Hampden Hill created and implemented the following systems:
- A digital recalculable recipe book, addressing the problem of participants dropping out or changing calorie requirements. After updating the new participant information each week, a new booklet could be printed for use in the kitchen, with all recipes and their adjusted amounts needed for the week.
- A weekly inventory list, which took its values based on the recipe and menu needs each week. Without manual recalculation, a new inventory sheet could be printed each week indicating the amount of every inventory item needed for the week. This eliminated going to the store for needed inventory items during production.
- Daily portioning guides. With these sheets, one person could be tasked with weighing and portioning all necessary food items for the week at once.
- Daily pack-up sheets. These sheets could be used to make packing the meals for the participants more simple and streamlined.
- Implementing changes to certain recipes to allow for freezing without compromising the quality of the food so that larger batches of certain prepared items could be made, eliminating the need to prepare every item each week.
- Freezer pull sheets, to know how much of each frozen prepared food item to pull for the week.
- Daily kitchen management during planning and production.
With these systems in place, the facility began to meet time deadlines with ease. The workflow was more regular, and food output and quality were more consistent. Problems with participants dropping out because of missed meals, problems with employees needing to immediately procure inventory items, and problems with excess food waste were eliminated. This provided not only a gain of better employee work satisfaction, but also measurable monetary savings.