Mercy Medical Center and Aultman Hospital have added grocery options for their employees who may not have time to go to the grocery store or don’t want to risk infection.
Going to the grocery store during the coronavirus outbreak requires multiple wardrobe changes for hospital workers like Marla Berkey.
The administrative assistant to the director of surgery at Mercy Medical Center first would shower and change her clothes after work. Then, upon her husband’s insistence, she would need to change her clothes a second time after returning from the grocery store to prevent potentially bringing the highly contagious coronavirus into their North Canton home.
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This week, Berkey, who has worked at Mercy for 15 years, shopped and picked up her groceries without leaving work.
She used Mercy’s new grocery service called Mercy Eats!, which began last week and is open to the hospital’s roughly 2,500 employees who still are working inside the hospital or at one of Mercy’s off-site locations.
The service is one of the ways area hospitals and businesses are trying to make things easier for health care workers leading the county’s response to the coronavirus. The virus, known as COVID-19, has led to the hospitalization of 23 and the death of eight people in Stark County.
Variety of foods
Mercy Eats! offers employees roughly 30 grocery items including white and wheat bread, rice pilaf, pastas and sauce, meatballs, eggs, burger patties, cheese, sliced meats, milk, orange juice, margarine and butter, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, apples, oranges, potatoes and lettuce.
The employees select their choices using an order form and submit to the hospital’s food and nutrition services. A two-person crew then takes the order, rounds up the groceries and has the bag ready for when the employee’s shift is over. Employees can pay for the food by cash, credit card or payroll deduction.
Nikki Mosiychuk, director of food and nutrition services, and Nicky Pyles, executive chef, said they wanted to provide the grocery service as a convenience to Mercy employees who can be so focused on caring for their patients and families they may be struggling to take the time to keep their pantries stocked. The duo, who work for Metz Culinary Management but were previously Mercy employees, also wanted to help the employees avoid the risk of going into the community to shop for groceries.
Rather than establish a grocery store area where employees shop, they developed the order form and converted an area of the hospital’s cafeteria where they previously provided cook-to-order meals into their pick-up and pay area.
"This way it’s safer, because you only have one person touching (the groceries) and you don’t leave out items that could be touched by multiple people," said Mosiychuck, who has been at Mercy for 15 years.
They said the response has been more than they expected. They collected $1,100 in sales during their first week and are filling between 10 and 20 orders a day with Mondays and Tuesdays as their busiest days.
So far, the most requested items since the service began on March 30 has been fresh produce and bread products.
Berkey said her first order included frozen meatballs, bananas, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, rice and bread.
"It’s really nice to be able to get the fruit," she said. "We go through a lot of fruit at our house, like others do for bread and milk."
Aultman and more
At Aultman Hospital, employees can stock up on groceries by visiting The Shoppes at Aultman, located at the main campus in Canton, which has increased its grocery inventory to accommodate employees. Aultman’s cafeteria also has added a variety of grab-and-go meals, quart-size soups, one-pound packs of deli meats and cheeses and three different bread options.
At Aultman Alliance Community Hospital, the café offers grab-and-go items including soups, salads and wraps and has stocked groceries such as bread, milk and cheese. The café also is featuring a special takeout item each week, such as stromboli or large pizzas. At Aultman Orrville Hospital, the nutrition services department is providing staff with discounted breakfast and lunch grab-and-go options.
Some grocery stores also are offering special hours for first responders. Giant Eagle has dedicated the 6 a.m. hour on Thursdays and Friday for police officers, firefighters, paramedics, medics and other similarly training members.
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