CHI Health St. Francis

Much busier on any given day a month ago, due to coronavirus concerns and current no visitor restrictions that began on Wednesday, the parking lot at CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island is much less full nowadays. (Independent/Barrett Stinson)

CHI Health hopes that it has found a way to take care of its own during the COVID-19 pandemic — and its employees’ stomachs.

Employees at CHI Health can now take advantage of a virtual grocery store and meal service.

It debuted last week at CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy in Omaha and rolled out at additional hospitals, including CHI Health St. Francis, on Monday.

“CHI Health virtual store is a process that the food and nutrition (teams) came up with working together,” said Terri Hill, division director of nutrition and patient food services for CHI Health. “It really is a one-of-a-kind store for covering multiple hospitals throughout the region. It’s one of the first we’re aware of in the Midwest.”

Hill said the virtual grocery store and meals service is one way CHI Health can help its employees during a tough, stressful time in the health care industry.

“It’s a good thing as we get to pay back to the employees that are working enormous hours taking care of patients, not being able to go shopping or to local restaurants,” she said. “So this way we can use our kitchen space to provide them wholesome, healthy foods that taste good and are convenient throughout CHI Health.”

Having an online portal for food makes things simple for employees.

“We have a virtual site set up on the Internet where you can go in (and) place your order for all the different items,” Hill said. “It actually tallies and bills right to your payroll deduction so there is no cash transaction.

“They can either come into the dining centers and pick up or can come into the kitchen or they can arrange it in advance and someone will meet them and load it into their car.”

The convenience factor should be a plus for employees working long days.

“It was in conjunction with CommonSpirit Health as they were opening grocery stores inside their dining center,” Hill said. “We thought the best way to go for CHI Health was virtual so that everyone at CHI Health from Kearney to Council Bluffs could utilize the store and have the benefit of fresh-made food.”

And there are plenty of different food options within the virtual store.

“They can order lasagna, stir fry, fajitas, breakfast casserole (and) fresh-baked rolls,” Hill said. “They can order desserts like scotcheroos (and) Rice Krispies treats. They can have salads from Caesar salads to chef salads. We’ve tried to make it in a convenient package where it’s from two to six people that it can serve. It comes with all the toppings.

“We also have a grocery store, which offers eggs, milk, bread, soda — anything that can help them, even homemade banana bread so that they can enjoy breakfast in the morning.”

The virtual grocery store and meal service are set up to accommodate all workers at CHI Health sites.

“They can order by 5 p.m. the night before and they can pick up as early as 6:30 that morning,” Hill said. “It’s for both shifts, overnights and days.”

While providing convenient food options for its staff, CHI Health also hopes to help employees economically with the virtual stores.

“We built the program to be a benefit, so we’re really doing minimal markups, no more than 10% to all the items so that people can also be very conscious of this time of saving money during COVID-19,” Hill said.

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