Every month we invite one of our team members to sit down with us and tell us more about their journey to Elder Care Alliance, their role now, and their insights into older adult care. We are excited to share the expertise and knowledge of our team members who every day come to work and help our residents live their best lives today with us.
Today we welcome Jennifer Eckard, Regional Culinary Services Director.
Us: Hi Jennifer, tell us a little about your background and role at Elder Care Alliance.
Jennifer: I have been in the culinary industry since 1993, but it started when I was a child helping my parents with Sunday dinners. Both my grandmas were also in the industry, either cooking for church functions or the other working for Charles P McCormick himself at McCormick Spice Company.
I have worked at a family-owned business in Maryland, where I won Maryland’s “Best Cream of Crab” recipe in 1996. Then, moving back to the Detroit area, I worked for the Detroit Redwings during the 1997-1999 Stanley Cup Championships. After, I worked for Marshall Field’s (aka Macy’s) Department Store Foods division as their Regional Chef until 2008. Then I moved to San Francisco to run the Union Square Macy’s Foods Division. After that, I moved on to a more “regular schedule” and went to the corporate dining side of the business. I finally ended up with Elder Care Alliance in July 2019 as the Regional Culinary Service Director.
Us: How does your work benefit residents at Elder Care Alliance communities?
Jennifer: From my experience with changing my own parent’s diet, we saw changes in their behavior and moods, energy level improvements, test results and medicine being discontinued by having my home-cooked meals and not processed foods they were eating living by themselves.
Us: Tell us more about a specific feature of your job/duties and what residents can expect to gain from that.
Jennifer: We have implemented our All-Day Menu to 100% the Mediterranean and MIND diet recipes and added recipes to our cycle menu in the dining rooms while still offering freedom of choice.
Us: What is one of your favorite memories/experiences working at Elder Care Alliance?
Jennifer: The one that sticks out the most to me is when I visited our AlmaVia of Camarillo. While doing my monthly audit, we went to the community’s memory care area. A resident and her daughter were having lunch. The daughter stopped us and said, “The lunch you served us at the function a month ago is why we moved our mom and dad into AlmaVia of Camarillo. We told our friends looking for a place for their parents to visit and have your food.” Well, they visited, had lunch, and signed that week to move in.
Us: What is the greatest reward that your role at Elder Care Alliance brings?
Jennifer: Having residents, their families and our team members tell me how they love the food and give me suggestions on what needs to be improved to help them enjoy eating in “their” dining room.
Us: Can you share any insights into new programs/menus/etc. you are planning?
Jennifer: I am working on as much as possible to have all dressings and baking done in-house instead of being sourced out. Also, we are partnering with local vendors to work with our Green 2030 program.