Martinsburg, W.Va. – October 24, the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center celebrated Food Day to showcase local farmers and flavors of the Eastern Panhandle. Culinary teams from the medical center’s Nutrition and Food Service (NFS) and Veteran Canteen Service collaborated to prepare “A Taste of Appalachia” for approximately 500 Veteran inpatients, outpatients, and staff.
At mealtime, the words “quick and easy” have surpassed “fresh and wholesome” in American homes. Instead of bland microwavable meals or unhealthy fast food, Food Day celebrates fresh foods that excite the palate. “When the ingredients are fresh, preparing food is fun,” said Program Support Assistant Laura Bradley, who received her culinary training at Johnson and Wales University. “Today, time is spent removing cardboard and wrappers or opening cans instead of preparing a delicious meal. What we have are frozen or canned products that we must breathe life into, but when you have food in its purest form, cooking becomes art. What you make is personal and tastes so much better, too.”
The Food Day meal included:
Nancy Hershner, Ruth Steelman and Bob VanMeter of the Bluegrass Garage Pickers Band volunteered to play in the Community Living Center and Domiciliary dining room during mealtime as a way to give back to Veterans.
Menu items were selected specifically to highlight locally available foods such as rainbow trout, which was donated by the Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, W.Va. “Trout has the potential to play a significant role in the local and national economy,” said Joseph Hankins, Vice President of the Conservation Fund and Director of the Freshwater Institute. “Eighty-five percent of the seafood Americans eat is imported, which contributes to our trade deficit.”
Derek Kilmer of Kilmer Farms in Berkeley County not only manages his family’s fruit farm, but distributes in and out of state food to schools and institutions in the Panhandle. Partnering with the medical center to provide fresh foods, Kilmer hopes to “open up more doors” between local farmers and the community.
By relying on local food producers and distributors, the medical center supports community businesses, while guaranteeing products at the height of freshness for Veteran patients. The medical center not only builds relationships with local farmers, but with aspiring culinary students through NFS internships with Blue Ridge Technical and Community College. “Interns introduce fresh ideas and techniques into our routine,” said NFS Operations Manager Annemarie Price, “while we train them for the future, to provide quality hospital meals.”