From Meatloaf to Meeting Residents’ Needs

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Mini turkey meatloaves and pecan-crusted chicken breast headline the menu of popular gluten-free meals at Pennwood Village, a continuing care retirement community in Newtown, Penn., with 450 residents, including one with Celiac disease and others who are intolerant to gluten or interested in adhering to a gluten-free diet.

Mary Cooley

Mary Cooley, director of dining services, shared several of her teams’ recipes, including one for Mini Turkey Meatloaves and another for Pecan Crusted Chicken Breast with the General Mills culinary team, who liked them so much that they made them part of their collection. For the meatloaf in particular, Cooley consulted with a resident who shared her secret ingredient: Rice Chex. When it is ground up, it creates a perfect binder for the meatloaf.

Cooley works closely with the residents and her team to research a variety of resources and seek out gluten-free recipes while experimenting with different ideas and products on the market. The Pennswood Village pastry chef does the same, focusing on recipes that can be prepared without flour or wheat products.

“Our residents who adhere to gluten-free diets are very appreciative. They are thankful that we are open to their suggestions and input,” Cooley said. “We are also working on better labeling of the gluten-free products so our residents, employees and customers are aware they are available.”

This collaboration “is part of our resident-directed initiative and ingrained into our mission statement,” Cooley added.