Since 1985 Betty Gilbreth has been responsible for providing nutritional meals for the individuals at Opengate. After earning a Masters Degree in Nutrition, Betty answered a Penny Saver ad for the available position and began working one day a week planning menus for the main house with a community dining room where everyone ate meals together.
Over the last 34 years she has seen several changes including the addition of houses in the community with their own kitchens. She currently works 3 days a week and plans meals for 12 homes, 7 in the community and 5 homes near Opengate’s Somers campus.
Along with the ingredients for each meal, recipes and instructions are included.
Betty’s obligations don’t end with meal planning, she also follows the progress of individuals who live in the Grey, Auerbach, and Lehr ICF houses. She routinely reviews each persons’ nutritional needs, reporting if there are medical or swallowing issues, and if consistency of food needs to be modified. They are also evaluated by other medical personnel and any changes in diet recommended are made. She and staff members closely follow OPWDD’s choking prevention program for food and liquid.
The complexity of meeting the diverse needs of so many people seems daunting, and Betty is also involved in training staff members each time someone has a new medical diagnosis, food interactions, or a new diet is needed. The considerations are many, especially for the aging population. For example, some may require more protein for skin integrity and others may need adaptive equipment to assist them with eating. All of these factors are integrated on an individual basis.
Shopping for each kitchen, along with individual dietary necessities, is done on a weekly basis through ShopRite Supermarket’s online ordering and delivery service. Each order is delivered to the various homes by ShopRite and contain the basics along with specialty foods for those who need to be gluten, sugar, or lactose free. Betty is mindful of offering a variety of healthy meals for each person including ethnic menus for those who enjoy a taste of home.
Betty regards Opengate individuals a “second family” and loves to do little favors for them such as stickers or personal notes. Several individuals were already living at Opengate when she arrived and she has been a part of their growth, successes, and achievements. She reports that her favorite memory is watching each of them enjoying their lives to the fullest.
In her personal time, Betty enjoys the outdoors, especially kayaking with her husband. She also belongs to a local book club and enjoys reading.