Monthly archive for September 2012

Valley Hospital debuts Meatless Monday options By Laura Herzog

 Garlic Naan Bread with Vegetable Curry and Basmati Rice.

Quinoa-stuffed Eggplant with Tomato and Feta.

Black Bean Quesadillas.

Dawn Cascio, director of Food Services, left, and Executive Chef John Graziano show off a meatless Monday meal.

With menu listings that can even make a carnivore salivate, The Valley Hospital is promoting a healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle change for its patients, visitors and staff. After launching its campaign last week, Valley has pledged to go “meatless” each Monday, offering fiber-rich vegetarian meals in all four of its on- and off-site cafés.

In doing so, it became the first hospital in New Jersey to join an ongoing international campaign that aims to help people reduce their meat consumption by around 15 percent.

“I had heard about other institutions doing the Meatless Mondays,” said Valley’s Director of Food Services Dawn Cascio, who suggested the campaign to her boss, the vice president of facilities. “There’s hundreds of them.”
Several other institutions are taking part in the initiative — from Baltimore’s entire school system and Johns Hopkins Hospital to New York University and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, she said.

By joining the grassroots effort, participants can improve their personal health and raise awareness of the environmental and public health impact of industrial meat production linked to heavy land and water use and pollution, Cascio said. Studies show that plant-based diets rich in fiber-rich whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables are better for people, she said.

Too much meat, according to experts, has been linked to type 2 diabetes and higher mortality rates. Also, a significant cause of water pollution is runoff from nearby farms that contains animal waste, antibiotics and hormones.
Still, Valley’s new initiative is not forcing people to eat meatless on Mondays; going meatless at Valley is optional. Regular fare is still offered to those who want to eat meat or fish on Mondays, said Valley spokesperson Maureen Curran Kleinman.

Cascio said the campaign was “really about choices,” but the hospital was doing its part to encourage people to eat meatless by spreading information.

“We are doing that by educating people about increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and hoping they’ll make that choice on their own,” she said.

During the initiative’s launch, employees at Valley’s various dining facilities dressed as chickens, pigs and cows to promote the movement, and a printed pledge was placed on each table. Free samples included a wheat berry salad made with spinach, blueberry, pineapple, pomegranate, molasses and mint.

it is non-binding, those who pledge say they are making an effort “to move forward with the intent of increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables,” she said.

While options have been available every day in the Valley cafeteria for vegetarian employees for more than a year now, Cascio said the entire food service staff is now embracing the idea.

The taste of the food probably doesn’t hurt either. Kleinman, who called herself a picky eater, said the wheat berry salad was “incredible.”

“Everyone hounded [Cascio] for the recipe,” she noted. “So many people asked for it that they sent it to all the employees.”

And anyone who wants to try Valley’s meatless meals can check out Valley’s Facebook page for a meatless recipe each week. Meanwhile, Valley Executive Chef John Graziano won second prize in a national healthcare cooking contest last month.

Continuing a two-year relationship with Catalpa Ridge Farm in Wantage, Graziano’s staff is cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables from the local farm.

“I like to eat whatever’s fresh,” he said. “Everything’s in season right now. We live in the Garden State.”  Going meatless costs the hospital about the same, Graziano said, since the price of meat has “skyrocketed.”

In addition, eating meatless protein and whole grains can be just as filling as eating meat, but leaves people feeling “lighter throughout the day,” he said.

“It takes a longer time to digest something that’s not overly processed,” he said, and because some whole grains like quinoa, faro and wheat berries have a lower glycemic index, they “give you that feeling of fullness throughout the day.”

If meatless cooking is better for you, then one question remains: Why Monday?

It’s not just the alliteration. Mondays are the ideal day to initiate a positive lifestyle change, according to the campaign’s launch organization.

According to the website, The Monday Campaigns, a non-profit national public health initiative in association with the

Valley employee John Bush prepares one of the new entrees.

Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, people are more likely to start diets, exercise, quit smoking and schedule doctors appointments on Monday than any other day. Popular culture is shifting away from thinking of Monday as the dreaded weekend’s end and conceiving of the day more positively as a fresh start.

“Monday is like the January of the week,” Cascio said.

Some people at the hospital were a “little bit concerned at first” because they thought they were being forced to eat vegetarian, but the initiative is only just beginning, she said.

Cooking meatless can be as enjoyable as eating meatless, according to Graziano.

“[Cooking meatless] makes it more interesting,” he said. “I think not being focused on the protein allows you to do a lot more things, actually.”



Membership Matters! By Sharon Sachenski, MA, RD


The Greater NJ Society for Healthcare Food Service Administrators is on track to exceed its highest membership ever! Being an active member can benefit you and your operation from the learning you will receive from attending our monthly events, to networking with peers and from our bi-annual newsletter.

To date for this year we have had a significant number of new operators/allied members in Food and Nutrition Healthcare Services join…please welcome the following:

  • Mary Ellen Bell – Director, Bayshore Hospital
  • Mario Benitez – Kitchen Manager, Donna’s Café, Overlook Medical Center
  • Scott Chapman – Executive Chef, Saint Clare’s Healthcare System
  • Todd Daigneuault – Executive Chef, Overlook Medical Center
  • Gregory Dukes – Production Supervisor, UMDNJ-UH
  • Diane Ferrance – Administrative Assistant, RWJUH, New Brunswick
  • Baby Haas-Albert – Supervisor, The Valley Hospital
  • Elizabeth Haberman – Admin/Catering Coordinator, Saint Peter’s University Hospital
  • Aatul Jain – Executive Chef, Saint Clare’s Healthcare System
  • Ed Johnson – Ramapo Ridge Mountain Mixes
  • Stephanie Mills – General Mgr. Donna’s Café, Overlook Medical Center
  • Angela Pagliuca – Administrative Ass’t, Overlook Medical Center
  • Laura Perez – Assistant Director, Bayshore Hospital
  • R. Bozzolo – Ass’t Manager, Retail Svc. NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Melba Boyer – Manager Retail Services NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Jason Flagg – Ass’t Director, HJD Langone Medical Center
  • Edwina Rich – Clinical Nutrition Manager, NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Doug Stehle – Executive Chef, RWJUH, New Brunswick
  • Jackie Waldron – Director, Kessler Chester

Additionally, we also have more than 30 vendor partners as members in our chapter whom we thank for their loyal and generous support. Please note their listing in this newsletter and remember to thank them when they come to call or when chatting at a networking event. It is their support that enables us to offer all the great events and programs to our members.

In the interim, we encourage all of you, our members to please keep your membership current and to take advantage of membership networking, education and recognition opportunities. We have been striving to offer continuing education for our programs this year and reach out to all members so as to increase our attendance at events so we can enhance the programs and learn from each other. Please visit the website to keep up to date– We look forward to seeing all of you at the upcoming fall events!!!

Membership applications can be downloaded from the website, completed and forward along with payment to Sharon Sachenski, Membership Chair. Details on the application.

Twitter 101 by By Marsha Diamond, MA, RD

According to a recent research study by The Nielsen Company, “Americans spend nearly a quarter of their time online on social networking sites and blogs to learn more, to engage and more. Traditional marketing/branding focuses on what brands attempt to portray to consumers. Social media allows consumers to tell brands about themselves, while simultaneously increasing brand awareness by promoting interaction and a sense of community.

Some major concerns of organizations, hospitals, healthcare organizations, restaurants, foodservice companies and individual that want to engage in Twitter.

  • “This could be the greatest way for us to get more sales, engage our customers, have our patients engage, make more money, but are we too late to get started”
  • “We’re afraid to try Social Media”
  • “If we start it may be to broad appeal and appealing to a broad spectrum audience as possible might limit our business”
  • “If we don’t do it several times a day every day we won’t get followers and it won’t be impactful”

To be successful in twitter:

Position your brand to appeal specifically to a certain type of customer, you stand out as different and are perceived as an expert. Twitter is a social media business cocktail party.

  • Have value added content
  • Industry news in the form of pictures, videos, press releases
  • Show interest in others
  • Ask questions of your followers related to your brand/industry
  • Comment on tweets you find relevant to your brand
  • Have a personality
  • Each tweet can only be 140 characters so try to be short and to the point.
  • A word about following: It is called follow Friday. Some of the hashtag look like this(#ff or #followfriday).
  • The #ff messages to extend the reach community. If you think someone is worth following reach out
  • Specific tweets you recommend people/brands to follow with the @ symbol and their Twitter handle
  • Talk less, listen more
  • Build credibility
  • Monitor consistently
  • Valuable resources: use free source tracking: google alert, igoogle, rss feeds

Ask yourself this?

  1. Are you in the daily conversation?
  2. Have you defined your social media “circle of influence?”
  3. Are you offering regular commentary on trends?
  4. Can you offer credible information in quick bites?
  5. Are you a “positive force,” or a “downer?”
  6. Have you made your credentials organic to the conversation?
  7. Do you support other credible voices?
  8. Give links to credible online sources

How Much Is That Tweet in the Window?

As for customer behavior, nearly half (47 percent) are somewhat more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Twitter or like on Facebook.

One of the greatest challenges facing the digital media world is the lack of understanding of its power. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest, among others, help brands establish thought leadership within their industry and among their customers.

But according to Harrison Painter, director of business development for BLASTmedia, most companies view social media in one of two ways: 1) A waste of time, or 2) a panacea for their marketing woes. Which one are you?

By Marsha Diamond, MA, RD
Foodservice Business Development Consultant/Strategic Speaker/Social Media Strategist
Cell: 732.616.7220   Email:

Employee Spotlight – Eleni Mantsis

Eleni Mantsis came to the United States from Greece in 1982. In 1994 she began her employment at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital as a member of the Housekeeping staff, working the 7:00 am – 3:30 pm shift. During her tenure in housekeeping she always shared a great interest in helping out the Food & Nutrition Department in stocking the doctor’s lounges and helping in setting up and break down of special events.

In 1997 she transferred to the Food & Nutrition Department as a Special Function Aide. She excelled and showed great work ethnic and commitment to learning how to exceed customer expectations in food presentation and service. In 2002 she was promoted to Lead Special Function Aide. In 2003 Eleni won the “Award of Honor”, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital most prestigious award.

Eleni is a special individual who really takes pride in her work. It is not uncommon for her to arrive early and leave late to assure every detail is addressed in the special function area. She spends numerous hours of her own time looking for props to enhance our displays and shopping for just the right ripe mango to go on her fruit platter.

Eleni likes collecting cookbooks, cooking Greek specialties, dining in the finest Greek restaurants in New York City and spending time with her daughter, twin sons and her husband Gus. She is truly an exemplary employee who enjoys coming to work and making a difference.

Employee Spoptlight – Christina Rutz


Christina Rutz, joined our team at St. Clare’s in 2008, as a food service aide, where she quickly moved up to a full time Team Leader, due to her hard work, diligence and motivation to do each job to the best of her ability

Three years later, she had a few major changes in her life, going from Miss Rutz to Mrs. Poyaoan, and on top of the wedding planning and changes in her personal life, our department, Food & Nutrition was also undergoing some changes, and again Christina was a part of them.

We had done some restructuring of the department, which created a new position at three of our campuses, the role Team Leader of Operations, and Christina was offered the position in our Denville campus. She joyfully accepted it, eager for a new challenge, a job which would offer her an opportunity to grow and the ability to learn more about our department and the hospital as a whole.

Since that year, she has become a Patient Ambassador, learning more about ways to best serve our patients and working with the kitchen staff to ensure that they are practicing AIDET (Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explain, Thank you) with each and every patient / customer or employee that they encounter. She has helped our department to run smoothly through the scheduling of all of our staff along with helping draft new policies and procedure to keep our staff knowledgeable about their jobs; she works with finance and accounting keeping track of our revenue from the cafeteria and coffee shop along with marketing specials and promotions that we are having to draw in more customers and increase our sales.

Lastly she has worked in our Bakery and Pastry Department to develop and fine tuned her baking skills with our Pastry Chef Erin, and she was able to use those skills to enter the Balls with Attitude contest, along with Scott Chapman, our Executive Chef, held at RWJ recently. We are very pleased to have her as a part of our team in our Food & Nutrition Department at St. Clare’s and look forward to having her continue to help our team move forward and grow.

Simplicity in Leadership by Stephanie D. Conners, MBA, RN, BSN

 Leadership – a key attribute of everyone’s personality to a lesser or greater degree – is most often a learned behavior. Over the course of your life, you are faced with many options on whom to follow, and whom to lead. Starting from a very young age, your experiences begin to build upon the foundation of who you will become as an adult – one block at a time. Your personality is innately shaped, and the result determines what side of the leadership fence you are on. As a professional, you practice that same behavior and the subsequent impact to an organization is critical.

There are three sides to a fence – right, middle and left:

The right side is comprised of individuals who are considered high performers or “STARS”, most often our positive formal or informal leaders. They excel often (in all they do) through actions and results. High performers exist at every level of the organization and in every discipline. Just because an individual may have a management title does not make them a successful leader. Actions, results, accountability, compassion, humility, integrity, vision and candor, just to name a few, are all key attributes to being a right fence sitter.
The middle side is comprised of those who watch, assess and are unsure how to act on an issue – we call them our followers.

The left side includes those who are loud and unhappy. This unhappiness pervades both their personal and professional lives. Their loud collective voices have a profound impact and can influence – they are the “negative informal leaders” within the organization. They are the same people who come to Thanksgiving and tell you that your food is too hot and too cold, or they just do not like the choices. Consider the impact when you realize that the loud and unhappy people are working your schedule, and you say to yourself, “this is going to be a rough day”. And finally, those who state a problem without a solution simply add to the problem. Do you know anyone with these traits? Unfortunately, if tolerated, those who sit in the middle sometimes only hear the left side. Needless to say, this middle of the road stance damages even the strongest organization.

So again, what side of the fence do you want to be on, and how do you lead others away from the middle to the right side? We need to drive our teams to lead at every level of our organization. Those in the middle will most likely choose a side of the fence. Both formal and informal positive leaders need to have a louder voice, intolerant of mediocrity, and be willing to step up and address an issue with candor!

The drivers of successful organizations are the people who lead, and the people need to own the business, as well as, their individual behaviors.

Stephanie D. Conners, MBA, RN, BSN
Senior Vice President/Chief Nursing Officer
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Is There Life After Being a Food Service Director? By Larry Kaplan

I must say “yes” after sitting on my deck on this gloomy day looking at the trees and flowers knowing that the sun will shine this afternoon and not in the form of a Press Ganey report, DOH Inspector, JCAHO Surveyor, Contractor salesperson or in the presence of a Hospital Administrator’s ominous glare.

My life as a Food Service professional started in 1969 and ended when I retired from St. Peter’s University Hospital in 2001 after 16 years of dedicated service where I was also one of the “founders” of GNJSHFSA and served as President and Director many times. Prior to my employment at St. Peter’s University Hospital I worked for ARA as Director of Food Service at St. Barnabas for 10 years.

In all of those years I could never imagine how good retirement could actually be. I thought of it often, but always considered it to be time that would be spent just relaxing after all of those stressful years on the “firing line”. Initially I just wanted to “unwind” although I found that to be difficult. The first month I considered myself to be on vacation but after that I missed the challenges, socialization and constant interactions with my fellow managers and friends. I found that people within our adult community did not have the same background and mindset that I had or the foggiest idea of what I was talking about. It became boring. We remained in that adult community in Lakewood for almost five years and then moved to Toms River where we live in a beautiful home in Holiday Heights which is an adult community of more than 1,400 homes.

At this point I decided it was time for me to become an active participant in the community. Initially I became chairman of the civic committee where I arranged for information about senior citizen activities to be disseminated throughout the community and then moved on to the chairmanship of the by-laws committee where I re-wrote the by-laws, some of which dated back to 1986. By this time I became comfortable with living here and started to enjoy myself.

All this while my wife Gloria continued to work part time as a teacher and not miss a beat with her trips to A.C. with her neighborhood friends. In fact Gloria became an EMT on the volunteer ambulance squad three years ago. I have to give her a lot of credit for doing that. She studied for about a year prior to going to state mandated classes and became certified after passing the state test. She is now an officer in the squad and also a certified CPR and AED instructor. After living with me and my diabetes which I’ve had for 43 years she had a lot of experience dealing with “sick people”.

My next challenge in the community was to become the President of the Social Club. We meet once a month and provide professional entertainment to the members. When I became president we had 150 members and built it up to 350 members. I did that along with Gloria for three years and then took a break for two years. I am now going to be President again starting this September. While doing this I also call bingo once a month in our community and at our Temple, work on the monthly newspaper, preparing it and delivering it, run the monthly movie which I select from Redbox or Blockbuster and participate in the walking club.

I now walk 2-3 miles per day. Gloria and I also are volunteers for “Caregivers of NJ” and do bi-weekly grocery shopping for seniors who are house the First Aid Squad members who is 90+ years old. While living in Lakewood I also volunteered at Kimball Medical Center.

During the last five years I also ran 3 senior bus trips to Myrtle Beach, Nashville and Cape Cod. Each trip had about 45 attendees and lasted from 7 to 9 days. We only had one death during one of the trips. Talk about learning the “laws” real fast. I also ran two Senior Health Fairs for the Ocean County population. Each fair had 60 exhibitors and were heavily advertised on radio, newspapers and road signs. I did this with no contributions from the community. I did charge a small fee to the “for profit” exhibitors and solicited contributions from the Funeral Directors who are naturally good sources of funds.

I had great support from Community Medical Center, Deborah Hospital and Ocean County Senior Services. We had about 1,000 seniors who participated in each fair. In fact I received calls from other communities seeking help with their promotions but I do not want to nor need to “work” at any set job. Of course being a senior also has many perks. There are the early bird dinners, free passes to Island Beach State Park, free concerts and special discounts along the way.

For our own personal entertainment Gloria and I have gone on more than ten cruises to the Caribbean, Panama Canal and Alaska. We have taken numerous trips to Las Vegas and Aruba and last year took the entire family to Disney World. Next year we are going to spend my 70th birthday in Arizona and New Mexico. In three more years we will have a real special trip for out 50th wedding anniversary.

We have two adult children and three grandchildren who can do nothing wrong. We are typical grandparents who spoil the children and then send them home with their parents. Our grandchildren are 8 (set of twin girls) and 10 (potential soccer pro). The grandchildren have taught us how to use the IPhone and IPod. My granddaughters communicate with me over Face Time. This is like watching Dick Tracey using his watch to communicate with when I was a kid.

There is only one last thing that I can say in order for any Food Service professional to be able to retire and enjoy life without having to worry about the future, you must start planning for your own retirement very early in life. Do not make the mistake of waiting and assuming that your employer “will take care of you” when you do decide to retire. Retirement benefits are being reduced across the country. Saint Peter’s is currently petitioning the IRS to completely change the current retirement plan which will affect all current and future retirees. It can happen to all of us, and if you do not plan properly you will be working until you are 100 years old. Do not let that happen.

Member Spotlight – Tonya Pizzuro

Tonya Pizzuro, Director of Food and Nutritional Services and Wellness Team Leader at the
Barnabas Health Behavioral Health Center in Toms River, New Jersey, came to understand the concept of “self sustained” and “green” in every sense of the word at an early age. Having been raised on a farm in Indiana, she learned the importance as well as the benefits of using fresh, local grown products when preparing meals for friends and family. Realizing how much she enjoyed the culinary arts, her life seems to have always revolved around food.

Tonya’s began her pursuit of a career in Food and Nutritional Services by attending Middlesex County College where she earned a degree in Dietetics. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from FDU and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Food Studies at NYU. Her work experience began in school based food service and transitioned to B&I before securing her dream job at Kimball Medical Center in Lakewood, New Jersey as the Assistant Director of Food and Nutritional Services. Two years later she was promoted to Assistant Director for both Kimball Medical Center and the Barnabas Health Behavioral Health Center. This past January, Tonya was promoted to Director of Food and Nutritional Services for the Barnabas Behavioral Health Center and is very active on both the local and corporate level with the system Wellness initiative.

Since separating from Kimball Medical Center and transitioning to a stand alone department in January of 2012, the Food and Nutrition Department has fine tuned department roles to maximize efficiency and elevate the overall services. Lead Chef John Meklin assists in maintaining operational order and logic in the department while Chef Tom Jackson, a CIA graduate is always elevating the food production with his creativity and imagination. Lead Dietitian, June Small-Brooks, MS, RD is always on top of the latest diet and nutrition trends and incorporates the most up to date information into groups and inservices presented to both patients and employees. As a team, the department makes conscious healthy decisions when creating menus or consulting with departments food selections for special events. They also present cooking demonstrations and educational inservices to the employees throughout the year. Proud of everyone in the department, Tonya feels fortunate to work with such an extraordinary team. They are truly talented and passionate about what they do and understand how to work together to achieve their goals!

The Food & Nutrition Department are proudly maintaining Press Ganey scores in the 96th percentile. The department was recently recognized by Press Ganey for their accomplishments.

Tonya has been a board member of GNJSHFSA since 2010. Being a part of such an amazing organization with so many successful Food & Nutrition Professionals to network and share ideas with has been such a valued asset. She looks forward to continuing to work with GNJSHFSA and be a part of such an outstanding group of professionals. It is so rare to work with a group of people who are so willing to open their facilities, share ideas and work collaboratively with one another.

President’s Message – Michael Atanasio

President’s Message
Greetings GNJSHFSA Members,

It is hard to believe that we are fast approaching the end of another year. This year has brought many changes in healthcare

and seemingly, will be the forecast for changes yet to come. With the Presidential election on the horizon, HCAHPS ramping up and a number of pending mergers, it has never been more important than it is now to stay ahead of the curve. Henry W. Longfellow was quoted as saying “in this world, a man must either be an anvil or a hammer.” I cannot think of a better quote to depict our need for positioning our departments for the coming challenges.

I know many of you have been very much engaged in our organization and events. To date, we have exhibited the latest and greatest technologies and innovations, we have offered our first culinary practicum, and have connected at our annual summer networking event. I would also be remiss if I did not mention our annual culinary competition that continues to amaze!

I would encourage all to attend our upcoming events. In September, we will hold our annual financial seminar. This is a great prospect to refresh or learn about budgets, retail operations, benchmarking and other critical areas. We will be offering a supervisors leadership seminar as well. This seminar will offer a look at supervisory/management fundamentals and leadership skills. In October, we will round out the year with our annual employee recognition dinner. This is a great opportunity to meet, greet and celebrate our highest performers.

As we gear up towards the end of the year busy with budgets and new initiatives, I would encourage all of you to utilize an invaluable resource, our vendor partners. They provide a wealth of knowledge and ideas and offer creative insight into operational and service needs.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as President of GNJSFHA and its members at large. I look forward to seeing you at the events. Please visit us at for event information, job postings, operational support and much much more.

Michael Atanasio
President “The Chapter with Attitude”