The ‘New East’ equals New Opportunities

Community East Hospital was one of the first partners to provide the anchor housing benefit to its employees.   As an active partner in the Anchor Revitalization Program, Community East has already built a pipeline of employees exploring homeownership (and home repair incentives) closer to its campus…but that’s only part of its institutional impact.

Community East Hospital has served the healthcare needs of neighborhoods on Indianapolis’ east side – places like Little Flower, Irvington, Tuxedo Park, Warren Park and beyond – for more than sixty years.  As the oldest hospital in the Community Health network, the facility was due for a makeover; that was the impetus behind the sweeping expansion and reconstruction project known as ‘The New East.’

This $175 million investment in Community East involves the demolition of two existing buildings to pave the way for the construction of the new tower, which will house patients in early 2019.  The hospital will also get a new entryway and other enhancements.

So in addition to encouraging participation in ‘Live’ programs, ‘The New East’ creates new opportunities for Community to engage with nearby businesses – boosting its ‘Buy’ power to strengthen the local economy.

As with Eskenazi Hospital, food procurement has been an early focus for Community East.  Part of rebuilding the hospital has been rethinking its culinary options, and making local sourcing a higher priority, according to Caroline Patrick, Director of Food and Nutrition Services.

“Fresh food is healthier food, first and foremost,” said Patrick.  “But we also want to offer a better experience for our ‘customers’ – visitors, employees and patients.”

Patrick has worked at Community for five years, but has more than a decade of experience in hospitality and healthcare food service.  She explained that on the Food and Nutrition Services team, “We’re all foodies.

“Institutional food isn’t always the most interesting, but taking advantage of local options can help us elevate our offerings.  We can change our menus according to what’s in season and work more closely with Indy-based vendors to adjust our orders and be more responsive to our customers.”

Patrick pointed to the Bistro – the hospital’s new ‘casual café’ option – as a promising showcase for local products.  “We’re offering Tinker Coffee, Circle City Kombucha, dairy products from Trader’s Point Creamery, gluten-free baked treats from BeeFree Bakery in Fishers, Brick House Vinaigrettes [Indianapolis] for our salads…and we keep looking to add more.

“We try to look at our own region, and then across Indiana,” she said, mentioning partners like Steckler Grassfed Farms and Dillman Farms, both in southern Indiana, supplying cheeses, jams and jellies.

“We’re also proud of our partnership with the Paramount School,” she added, referencing a K-8 charter program two miles from the hospital that includes a hands-on agricultural curriculum.  “We use goat cheese made by the students there – they’re our closest and most enthusiastic food supplier.”

Patrick noted that “outward-facing” dining options like the Bistro and the Heritage Café offer the easiest – and most visible – showcase for Indianapolis-area products.  But when it comes to the large-scale on-site kitchens that produce meals for patients, a longer-term strategy is incorporating more locally-grown food into the operation.

“We’re working with our distributors – like U.S. Foods and Piazza Produce – to add more local products and reduce our overall footprint for food procurement,” she said.  (It’s notable that major distributors like U.S. Foods and Piazza also do business with other anchors, like Eskenazi; collective demand is giving a growing ‘hand up’ to Indianapolis- and Indiana-based vendors to tap into their high-volume sales channels.)

Food is one path into ‘The New East’ for local business, but it’s far from the only opportunity for Community  to amplify its anchor impact.  As Patrick discussed how Bistro patrons can ‘eat and drink local,’ she gestured at handsomely-crafted, wooden shelving mounted on the back wall behind the counter, holding bags of Tinker coffee, extra glassware and other supplies.

“These shelves are made by Purposeful Design, one of our first installations in our relationship with them,” she said.  “And it’s just the beginning.”

Purposeful Design is a faith-based, mission-driven Indianapolis company less than two miles from Community East.  Building a workforce from local residents who have dealt with issues of addiction and homelessness, Purposeful Design provides offers productive employment, teaching work skills and the art of woodworking and furniture-making.  Community’s East Region Chief Operating Officer Suzanne Koehler became aware of the company’s work and impact, and encouraged their participation as a supplier.

The Bistro is the first showcase for Purposeful Design’s work, but their contract also calls for an array of furniture that will occupy the lobby and other common areas in the expanded hospital complex.

“The Bistro will connect to a larger lobby area as the gateway to Community East,” Patrick explained.  “And Purposeful Design’s work will be an integral part of our new space.”

Future editions of this newsletter will offer updates on Purposeful Design and other local businesses and artisans – companies like Geyer Fire Protection and Tomlinson Manufacturing – that are helping make ‘The New East’ a reality…and also realize the Anchor Program’s vision for a healthier Indianapolis economy.

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