A Kosher food pantry recently opened at Nemours duPont Hospital for Children, giving the health system’s growing Jewish patient base a refuge to prepare and eat meals that adhere to their religious dietary guidelines.
The pantry, which opened in January, reflects the Wilmington hospital’s determination to meet the cultural and religious needs of its patients. It is located just across the family resource center and is accessible by all points of the hospital.
“The opening of the kosher pantry is a realization by the community, for the community,” said Cindy Bo, the senior vice president of the Delaware Valley Strategy & Business Development at Nemours Children’s Health System.
The Kosher pantry was spurred by the relationship that Nemours/duPont developed with members of a large Orthodox Jewish population in Lakewood, New Jersey, a few years ago.
Families from the New Jersey township are used to traveling long distances for their children’s medical treatment, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Bo said.
“It’s not just about getting a snack pack,” said Bo, who helped oversee the Kosher pantry project. “When they’re here for such a long period of time, they may find it more convenient to make their own food here.”
Those who follow a kosher diet keep separate dishes and utensils for dairy and for meat.
“Since we cannot do that in another space like our cafeteria, we needed dedicated space for our orthodox Jewish patients to prepare and warm their meals,” Bo said.
Storage of food in kosher areas also is important.
“For example, when we get kosher meals delivered, they should not be mixed in with other non-kosher meals,” she said. “Finally, during Sabbath or other holidays, we need to make sure we can accommodate amenities, like doors, that are not electronic.”
Now, Jewish Lakewood residents who travel two hours to Wilmington won’t have to leave the hospital to find or cook a Kosher meal.
The pantry is accessible by keypad, which is in Hebrew. It has a full-sized refrigerator, microwave, cabinets, dining table and ample space for meal prep and clean-up.
Families can access ready-to-eat meals that go beyond apples and granola bars with Kosher dishes that are regularly prepared and donated by community partners throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
The hospital doesn’t have other kitchens open to families of those staying there, but it offers amenities such as refrigerators in each patient room and microwave carts that can be brought to the patient rooms.
Nemours offers options of many kinds to people of different faiths and diets.
“Upon request, we can make special accommodations for food and non-food requests,” Bo said. “For example, if there is a need to space for our prayer, we have the Nemours Jessie Ball duPont Memorial Chapel that is open to all faiths. It is nondenominational. We also provide other devotional literature upon request.”
The hospital routinely offers cultural competence training to staff.
“Last week, we hosted Grand Rounds on understanding the Orthodox Jewish patients. We have one for Amish and Mennonite patients,” Bo said. “We want to make sure … we have trainings for our various patient populations so that we are culturally aware and respectful. We want to ensure the patient and family’s experience here is excellent.”
Some of that it day-to-day practical. Some of it is emotional awareness.
“If a team is around (the patient) and a parent is in prayer, we need to know how to intervene or come back at a different time,” Bo said.
The kosher pantry is available to patient families 24/7.
“We may offer stellar clinical care, but the thing that makes us stand out is the respect we have for them as individuals and human beings, and that starts with us being culturally competent,” Bo said.