Healthy meals in PACE services for older people at risk of RI more care provided

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EAST PROVIDENCE — If anyone starts a fan club for chef Stephanie Duquette, Barbara Genese would be a strong candidate for president. As she waited for the lunch that Duquette and her team were preparing on a recent day at PACE Rhode Island, she sat near the dining room and reveled in the food served there.

“We have these wonderful, wholesome creations that come out of the kitchen, and they’re made fresh daily,” said Genese, 65. “You never know what kind of new creation she comes out, but it’s a welcome change and you feel a lot healthier after eating your meal. And she always encourages us to give her our opinion on her meals.

“And if there’s something we’d like to see on the menu, she changes it. So, you know, we love Stephanie and we love that she’s willing to work with all of us.

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Lunch that day consisted of roasted tomato basil bisque, seared salmon with spring herb pesto, roasted vegetable quinoa, roasted herbed Jerusalem artichokes and chocolate mousse dessert, all prepared primarily from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Duquette works closely with Farm Fresh Rhode Island and other agencies dedicated to local sustainable agriculture and healthy eating.

Like Genesis, diners at the PACE site live with multiple chronic health conditions such as diabetes and obesity and typically lack the financial means or culinary expertise to prepare healthy foods of any kind, let alone the appetizing dishes. Some live in places where healthy ingredients are not sold in local stores.

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Chef Stephanie Duquette of PACE Rhode Island prepares a pan-seared salmon meal with spring herb pesto, roasted quinoa and herb-roasted Jerusalem artichokes.

“Stephanie makes a good, good meal,” said Chester Poole, 61, who was joining Genesis for lunch. “The proportions are right and everything tastes really good. Fantastic.”

Juana Kollie, 79, from Liberia, said: “This is the kind of meal I want to eat. It can be well prepared. I like it.”

Passion for fresh and local food

Educated at Johnson & Wales, Duquette came to PACE after working as Executive Chef at Portsmouth Abbey School. Prior to that, she worked locally for the Pinelli-Marra Restaurant Group and 20 Water Street, as well as at Pepsi’s global headquarters in Purchase, New York, just north of New York.

“When I saw this job advertisement, I saw an opportunity to bring local, nutritious, healthy and culturally diverse fresh food to a population often overlooked in [addressing] food insecurity,” Duquette said, stirring sizzling pans in the new PACE kitchen, which could pass for the back of the house in a good-sized commercial restaurant.

“They’re older, so people forget about them and don’t realize that nutrition is still part of their day-to-day health, and that’s important to them,” Duquette added.

Duquette said his overall food philosophy can be summed up as, “Why can’t everyone have healthy, fresh, local food? Everyone deserves it. It’s something that excites me a lot. Food can be medicine, she said.

For the elderly population that frequents his “restaurant,” Duquette said, “they can benefit from the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that we bring to them every day. It is their main meal. So being able to give them that on a daily basis is very rewarding in general. »

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Stéphanie Duquette concocts fresh and local healthy foods.

Wide range of health care offered

The food program operates inside a large building that PACE purchased and renovated to provide not only food, but also a range of medical, dental, social, rehabilitation and other services that help frail older people continue to live independently at a much lower cost than a nursing home. be. PACE also has centers in Westerly, Woonsocket and Newport.

A nonprofit health plan for people age 55 and older, PACE Rhode Island was founded in 2005 and employs more than 150 professionals who speak 10 different languages. It is funded by Medicaid and Medicare.

It serves 378 participants and offers services such as “coordination of care by a team of qualified gerontologists; adult daycare in East Providence, Woonsocket, Westerly and Newport; transport to doctor’s appointments and to the day centre; rehabilitation services; access to medical specialists; medical supplies and full prescription coverage; and home care and nutritional assistance,” according to marketing manager Mary K. Talbot.

“The average age of our participants is 75, and many of them lived difficult lives before coming to PACE,” Tom Boucher, head of external affairs, wrote in an email. “Eighty-nine percent of our participants are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, and about the same number have a mental health diagnosis.

“They take eight prescriptions daily and have an average of six chronic conditions. However, with the comprehensive care we provide, PACE-RI participants can continue to live at home for an average of four additional years, even if they are eligible for nursing home care when they join.

“Hiring Stephanie was critical to the future of our nutrition program,” PACE CEO Joan Kwiatkowski told the Journal. “She has the Johnson & Wales credentials, the real-world experience from her years at Pepsico, and she’s personally invested in our mission. Whether it’s increased energy, weight loss, from less dependence on medication to smiles on their faces, participants demonstrate the success of the program every day.

Melissa A. Simonian, head of rehabilitation and nutrition services, said many participants, before leaving the workforce, viewed food as “something they grabbed on the go while working three jobs. – something quick, hearty and convenient”. The food was just something to fill their bellies most days. We had to re-teach many of our participants that food is also what fuels our bodies. It has healing properties.

“Food as medicine”

During her career, Genese worked as a retail sales manager. A stroke in 2019 turned her life upside down, she said.

“It was scary,” she said. “But they really worked hard to bring me to my strongest self.”

Kollie also suffered a stroke more than ten years ago.

“When I was young I worked with the government, and later I moved into my own job as an auto mechanic,” he said.

Poole worked as a mechanic at a bowling alley. A strong appetite, he said, led to health complications.

“I usually overfeed,” he said. “I don’t eat too much anymore. And I lost about 30 pounds.

“The people we see every day are medically complex and often live in food deserts in the community,” said chief medical officer Dr Tsewang Gyurmey. “Many join PACE with heart disease or high blood pressure, and sometimes diabetes.

“As medical professionals, we know that many of the symptoms of these diseases can be alleviated by food consumption or by the quality – and quantity – of food consumption. Food goes hand in hand with medication and movement. At PACE, we view food as medicine. This is part of the whole equation of a participant’s health and quality of life.

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