Local hospitals are working with the Jewish community to offer comfort to patients who keep kosher.

Though many area hospitals have offered kosher meals for years, they often left something to be desired by patients and their families, said a local Jewish doctor.

Dr. Arnold Good, interventional cardiologist at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center and chairman of the Jewish Federation of Columbus board, used to see patients avoiding the frozen kosher food provided by the hospital and bringing in their own food.

“I learned that there really is a need for expanded kosher services in the community. Our patients who eat kosher didn’t have enough options before,” Good said in an email. “Kosher options were available, but were generally frozen and brought in. I think the desirability lacked a little bit.”

Jillean Bastian, director of the ambassador program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation, once watched a Jewish family bring in a suitcase full of kosher food. Before the hospital began its partnership with the Columbus Bikur Cholim Society and opened a kosher pantry, there was little kosher food provided for patients’ families.

The pantry opened in May and also functions as a place for families to pray, Bastian said. About a month before the pantry opened, OhioHealth Grant Medical Center started to work with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus to offer fresh, locally made kosher food to its patients.

“Any bit of comfort, especially in terms of food, is important,” said Matan B. Gutwaks, catering and rentals manager at the JCC. That’s what he and the JCC hope to offer patients — a nice, hot kosher meal, he said.

Gutwaks is used to feeding large crowds, and happily took on the task of feeding those in the hospital. The meals the JCC kitchen prepares are frozen as well, but not for nearly as long. They also don’t contain preservatives and are more fresh than the meals provided in most hospitals, he said.

“It’s a great way for OhioHealth to work together with others in the community,” Good said in the statement. “The JCC has been a great partner … they were unbelievably helpful and receptive to this idea.”

He hopes the program will grow at Grant so there are deliveries there more often, maybe even daily. Gutwaks said he would also love to work with other local hospitals to do the same.

Families have had a great response to Nationwide’s new kosher pantry, Bastian said. The hospital decided it needed to offer the service a few years ago when it started seeing an increase in patients from Israel and other countries.

Seeing the family who traveled with a suitcase full of food was the moment the hospital decided to make a change, Bastian said.

“We have to serve these families when they’re here,” she said. “The last thing you should ever have to worry about is food when your child is sick.”

The programs benefit more than just the Jewish community members who eat kosher. Many in the Muslim community eat kosher as well, said hospital officials.

“It really provides us with an opportunity to provide an important service and celebrate diversity in our community,” Good said.

(Columbus Dispatch)


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