The primary goal of the Dining Room is to provide sustenance for our hungry guests in and environment of dignity and respect. In doing this we are able to provide a welcoming community, friendly ears to listen, and referrals to other services in St. Anthony Foundation’s network of care. Our ability to serve every guest in the Dining Room is made greater by truly understanding them and their specific needs.
More than one third of our guests rely on the meals served in the Dining Room as their only source of food each day; many must decide between paying for rent or even for medicine before budgeting for food. We understand that people with food insecurities need to reach satiety in their main meal of the day, to accomplish that a meal with 20% fat is advised.
Beef and other meats are critical to our guests. The concentrated protein helps prevent the cravings that lead guests to spend what little money they may have on fast food or convenience store items high in saturated and trans fats. All of these foods can cause further harm to our guests’ health when eaten on a regular basis, leading to obesity and related diseases, like diabetes.
The homeless and low-income population we serve also need a supplemental diet that focuses on prevention and other special needs such as wound healing, vision impairment and bone health. To ensure that the Dining Room is providing meals that best meet these needs, St. Anthony’s invited a Registered Dietitian to conduct a nutritional assessment of our food. The results indicated that the Dining Room’s menu provides excellent sources of macro and micronutrients, reflecting home cooked meals rather than processed foods. Meals also contain higher nutritional value, not only when compared to the alternatives found in our neighborhood, such as fast food and inexpensive convenience store snacks, but also when compared to other food service agencies.
The study showed Vitamins E, A and K at “good” levels. To raise that rating to “excellent” the Dining Room immediately doubled the amount of spinach and carrots cooked in meals, and has also added more meals with tuna to increase Omega-3 intake. Meals are now being cooked with vegetable oil rather than margarine, which immediately decreases trans fats 15%, with a long term goal of completely eliminating trans fats by 2010.