Walter Reed Bethesda leadership cut the ribbon to officially reopen Café 8901 in Building 9 at the medical center Aug. 6.
Renovations to the hospital’s main dining facility are now complete, and highlights include Café 8901’s Fit & Flavorful, World Bistro, Chef’s Table, Deli, Dessert, Brick Oven Pizza, and Grille stations, in addition to a food, salad and soup bar and grab-and-go meal service operation, known as 8901 Express, according to Maj. (P) Ronna Trent, Nutrition Services Department (NSD) Food Operations Division chief.
Trent added that in the near future, Café 8901 will move forward to include the Go for Green (GfG) diner education program, with a goal of providing “a dining environment where customers can easily choose foods to improve performance and long-term health.”
Trent explained GfG “uses a simple red, yellow and green color-coding system to provide customers with a quick assessment of a food’s nutritional value.” Café 8901 uses GfG marketing on the digital signage boards hanging over the Fit & Flavorful station to signify the “color” of the foods and help diners make informed decisions about their food choices. Other signage boards indicate key nutritional information to include calories, fat and sodium.
“Green coding signifies ‘high performance’ foods that are nutrient-dense with little or no processing and are low in added sugar, salt and/or saturated fat,” the major added. “These foods give you the biggest bang for your calorie buck and can be eaten daily or at most meals.
“Yellow coding signifies ‘moderate performance’ foods that are more processed with higher amounts of added sugar, salt and/or saturated fat,” Trent stated. “There are some nutritional benefits in these foods, but portions and moderation are key.
“Red coding signifies ‘low-performance’ foods that can have an adverse effect on performance and health,” she continued. “These foods are the most processed and the highest in added sugar, salt and/or fat and are meant to be limited to special occasions or avoided altogether.”
During the official opening ceremony for Café 8901, Col. Melanie Craig, NSD director, thanked her staff, in particular food service and room service personnel, “who have remained flexible and positive throughout [the] … renovation,” in addition to patrons for their patience.
She explained that as part of the preparation for the integration of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center and former National Naval Medical Center to form Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), it was determined a major renovation of food service operations was in order to support a world-class medical center. Upgrades were identified for the kitchen, dining room, server and administrative spaces. The contract was awarded in September 2012 and renovation began shortly thereafter.
Throughout the renovation, “we continued to operate and managed under any given condition, even under severe snowstorms and facility closures and delays,” Craig said. “Despite the challenges, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the entire Nutrition Services team, we continued [operation] without missing a beat.
“At the end of all of that, we can now offer a more sophisticated dining experience for our patients and staff,” Craig stated. “These upgrades will take us well into the future.”
Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Jeffrey B. Clark, WRNMMC director, agreed. “The dining experience is about much more than the meal,” he explained. “Breaking bread [includes] the interaction between the folks who work in the facility, and the fellowship shared amongst the diners.” He added the new Café 8901 is conducive to that atmosphere.
“You should be proud for what you do,” the general continued in commending the entire NSD staff. “God bless you, and thank you for what you do,” he concluded.
Clark and Craig were then joined by WRNMMC Command Master Chief Tyrone Willis, and Chefs Ted Stolk and Scott Brooks to cut the red, white and blue ribbon to officially open Café 8901.
In addition to those areas visible to Café 8901 patrons, renovations to the facility included those made to the behind-the-scenes food service operations, such as upgrades to employee locker rooms, the call center supporting inpatient meals for a hotel-style room service operation, and the department’s main supply areas. There were also renovations made to refrigerated storage areas and the executive dining room.
Café 8901 will work for continuous improvements for its customers and thanks WRNMMC staff and visitors for their support through this time of transition, Craig added. For more information about Café 8901 or Café 8901 Express, contact Maj. (P) Ronna Trent at 301-295-6568.