The Vero Beach, Florida-based operator recently announced a new “Farm-to-Fork” initiative that will bring seasonal menus with locally sourced veggies to all 30 of its communities. HRA is working with produce management, procurement and consulting company Produce Alliance to find local farms to partner with, according to Gottfried Ernst, the company’s vice president of hospitality.
“With this program, our refrigerators should look a like a fresh produce market,” Ernst told Senior Housing News.
Produce Alliance manages more than 50 distributors of fresh products, and has annual combined produce sales of over $4 billion, according to its website.
The initiative’s rollout included training all of the HRA’s chefs and executive directors how to whip up fresh salads (pictured above) with seasonal ingredients right next to residents’ tables—a task community leaders will undertake at least once per week. HRA’s sales directors also took part in the training to help market it to potential residents.
While the food program will focus on seasonal summer vegetables and salads first, the eventual goal is to incorporate more seasonal fruit and other locally sourced fare. Each community’s kitchen staff will ultimately determine which kinds of produce, and how much, they will procure.
“Eventually [we’ll use local fare] for all the dishes on the menu, but we’ll start with salads and vegetables first,” Ernst said. “Fruit will be next phase, and then all farm-fresh produce will be incorporated into the menu.”
HRA did not specify how much the initiative will cost, citing the fact that it is still too new to know. The operator has overhauled its hospitality offerings as of late, including a push to train its executive directors how to deal with more affluent clientele.
The regional operator is currently partnering on the construction of seven more communities. Earlier this year, the company’s president CEO detailed plans for a $450 million expansion initiative that included wall-mounted “vertical gardens” for farm-to-table produce at several communities.
Written by Tim Regan