Karen Karp & Partners (KK&P) was hired to study the food culture and design a food strategy for Open Door Family Medical Centers, a network of community health centers in Westchester and Putnam Counties, New York. In addition to five community health centers, Open Door also operates a school-based health program and a mobile dental van.
The cultural assessment began with staff – both clinical and non-clinical employees – to understand the knowledge, personal food behaviors, attitudes and overall food culture within the organization. This research included in-person interviews, focus groups, and surveys of employees and patients. A steering committee provided input during regularly scheduled meetings. The research provided a foundation for a set of recommendations that will support the health and well-being of Open Door’s employees and help the organization lead by example in its internal approach to food. KK&P realized that in order to make a difference to the population that Open Door served most, there was a need for greater internal education in order to move forward.
Taking the strategy design to the next level, internal research focused on practitioners’ and patient advocates’ knowledge about food and nutrition, and their knowledge of local food access and education programs available for patients. Ensuring that Open Door's staff was educated about local resources and health initiatives would lend towards greater success for patients and families.
KK&P provided a detailed food strategy to Open Door’s leadership that included the findings of the assessment and recommendations for how to provide additional support and programming to staff and patients related to food and health. Among the recommendations were consistent nutrition and culinary medicine training for Open Door’s staff at all levels, cooking and budgeting classes for patients, and a written food policy affirming Open Door’s commitment to supporting a healthy environment (in regards to food and nutrition) for staff and patients.
Open Door is now in the early stages of implementing some of these recommendations for both staff and patients, and will be making ongoing changes.