The Children's Institute Blog

Celebrate Healthcare Food Service Workers Week!

Posted: Oct 05, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Leslie Kurban, the cashier in The Children’s Institute’s Squirrel Hill cafeteria, is the face of an organization that served 154,888 meals this past fiscal year.

But, for Leslie, whose food group we are profiling today in celebration of Healthcare Food Service Workers Week, it’s the people, not the meals, who help to pass the days.

“I see people every day. I know more about what they eat and what they drink than what their names are,” she laughed. “You can tell the time of day by what time people come in.”

Leslie is one of the more senior employees on a team of 21 that handles everything from running the cafeteria and catering events to serving patient meals up on the inpatient wings. In the dining room alone this year – from the fiscal year running October 2016 to September 2017 – they estimate they have served about 74,000 patrons.

“It just takes a lot of dedication and attention to seasonality, as well as attention to the market “ said Johanna “Jody” Michalik, director of food and nutrition services, and the head of the Morrison team for the past five years. “Today’s world is a lot more complicated. But it’s just keeping up with all the trends, the rules and regulations. There’s always something happening.”

In 2012, Michalik boomeranged from California to Pittsburgh – she used to live in central Pennsylvania – after working in school, corporate and hospital settings. Her last position in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) graduate, served as operations director of five kitchens serving families, students and seniors in need, Open Heart Kitchen, a non-profit.

In the Behavioral Health Unit, on the fourth floor, Morrison presents Mediterranean style meals that must be healthy and interesting. So, all meats are baked, meals are cooked in extra virgin olive oil, and snacks include guacamole and pita chips with hummus.

On the 3W wing, though, they can get away with some sweets. For Sunday Fun snack, “We try to do desserts; the patients enjoy the treat” Michalik said.

In the dining room, there’s an even wider variety – everything from soups and desserts made from scratch, and grilled items like hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken wraps, to a fresh-every-day salad bar and a self-serve entrée and breakfast bar, bagel-and-sandwich station. And then there are the specials.

“There are a few entrees I can never take off the menu because I’d have my head chopped off,” Michalik laughed. “The Pittsburgh salad; the taco salad; the ribs; the fried chicken, mac and cheese, and stewed tomatoes.”

Don’t worry, fans. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

Other things don’t change. Tomorrow, you will see Leslie’s smiling face behind the cash register.

“I am doing more now than when I started. I may be stocking, getting more stuff; I may be washing,” Kurban said. “I do the vending machines, too, for the evenings and weekends.”

“And I like it,” she added. “I can’t sit at a desk in front of a computer – I would die.”

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