HealthPRO News

August 30, 2021

Supplier Spotlight: How Gordon Food Service (GFS) has delivered a ‘recipe for success’ to the Nova Scotia Food Program

woman eating

With their corporate motto, "Your partner at the table and beyond" Gordon Food Service has resisted complacency at every turn. Here's how they got it right with the Nova Scotia Food program.

When the HealthPRO distribution contract came up for renewal in 2018, the coordinators for the Nova Scotia Food Program (an 85-member program operated by the Province of Nova Scotia) didn’t realize what a pivotal moment this would be.

The distribution RFP went out and four companies responded. Before evaluations even began, the Nova Scotia Food Program lead reached out to its membership to understand their needs and challenges. “Going into it, we had pretty clear direction of what our members’ priorities were,” says the Food Program Procurement Specialist Krista Tobin. “Those included things like customer service, delivery challenges, communication, and of course cost.”

The entire RFP and contracting process for the province is managed by HealthPRO Nutrition and Food Services. The majority of those contracts are with national suppliers, but with a demand for locally-sourced food in the Maritimes, where possible, and in compliance with procurement regulations, efforts are also made to contract with regional suppliers. Since practically every food and non-food item is negotiated separately, that adds up to close to 200 food and nutrition contracts.

Unlike HealthPRO’s clinical contracts with large acute care facilities, food contracts don’t have the same volume requirements. “The food contracts are with a range of healthcare facilities, “says Rachel White of HealthPRO. “Everything from acute care right through to smaller 10-bed facilities.”

A game-changer

After a rigorous review process, GFS emerged as the ideal distribution supplier and has evolved into a valued and responsive partner. They’ve delivered on everything they promised in the initial presentation – and more.

It turns out, people are a key component of the GFS service delivery model. In the early days of the contract, GFS pulled together a transition team of local people, from operations to customer service to sales and marketing, “I probably had close to 10 people from GFS working with me throughout the transition period and many of those people are still working with us,” says Krista. “They also delivered on their promise to bring in a registered dietitian to work exclusively with the program and its members.”

The big ask

Under the visionary guidance of Brenda MacDonald, Senior Director, Nutrition and Food Services, Nova Scotia Health is slowly transitioning many of its healthcare facilities to a ‘room service model’ of food delivery. This method, pioneered by MacDonald at IWK Health Centre in Halifax, turns the traditional ‘two-option’ meal delivery service on its head, instead presenting patients with an extensive menu prepared in high-tech equipment within the facility.

Patient being served food

“We knew GFS had already done instructional videos and so we geared up for a big ask,” says Krista. “Would they consider creating a video about the room service model for the acute care setting?”

GFS embraced the project wholeheartedly and collaborated with Nova Scotia Health and the food program team to produce the video. “It was a really fun and satisfying project,” says Krista, who helped out and even has a small part in the final product.

Looking for new ways to engage

From her point of view, HealthPRO’s Rachel White (Manager, Member Support) sees GFS as an organization that is always looking for ways to engage. “They want to make sure they understand the requirements and are meeting them,” she says. “If those requirements change, they want the opportunity to be able to adapt.”

The food program wasn’t immune to the forces of COVID-19 – they miss seeing their GFS sales rep, who until the pandemic spent most of his time in his car, travelling between member sites. “As with everyone, we faced many supply chain challenges but with Andrew Lavoie staying in touch by phone or virtual meetings, we always knew what was happening,” says Krista.

They’ve also missed their annual education day, a lively event that combines learning with networking and of course, a focus on local cuisine. “I worked with GFS to plan a day that brought our members together with many of our contracted vendors in a road show-type atmosphere,” says Krista of the first education day in 2019. True to the Food Program’s mission of supporting locally grown and produced food, GFS made sure that all the food served throughout the day was a local Nova Scotia product.

Already in year three of a five-plus-five additional option term contract five-year contract, GFS and the Nova Scotia Food Program have developed a collaborative partnership which has led both parties to success.  “In multiple – and often unexpected – ways, GFS has given the Nova Scotia Food Program what they need, usually before they ask for it,” says Rachel.

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