Bateman Community Spotlight: Get to Know Chef O
When Fred Orton began his career with Bateman Community Living, he had one special person in mind: his grandma.
She regularly received food from a meal delivery program and lived on the outskirts of their service delivery area. When she received a meal that didn’t travel well, she was sure to let her grandson, Fred, know about it.
A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York, Chef Fred Orton, a food service director for Bateman Community Living, vowed to create the best possible dining experience for his grandmother and seniors like her.
For more than 30 years, Bateman has provided healthy, nutritious meals for senior meal programs, including many Meals on Wheels organizations. Bateman also serves adult daycare, Head Start and summer lunch programs, prepares food for event catering, therapeutic meals and provides shelf-stable meals and disaster response nutrition across the country.
According to Meals on Wheels America, 1 in 6 seniors struggles with hunger in the United States. In New York State alone, over 600,000 seniors are threatened by hunger.
That’s why Chef Orton is making sure seniors in his community—Dutchess County, NY—get the nutrition they need and the delicious meals they love.
“It all starts with one,” he says. He teaches his culinary team to put the same care into getting a meal right for one person as they do for serving 500 people.
There are many organizations preparing meals for seniors, but what makes Bateman stand out is the quality of each meal and the care that goes into it. “For us,” Chef Orton says, “it’s more than a meal. The bread that I’m including with this meal has a name on it: Mrs. Johnson.”
It’s this sense of community—people serving people—that Chef Orton nurtures in many aspects of his work. He has helped launch a series of cooking demonstrations that teach seniors more nutritious ways to prepare the food they already love. Seniors love asking questions and watching how the food they eat is prepared, and it’s also an opportunity to come out of their rooms and meet each other. Chef Orton offers follow up support by posting his recipes online, and the program has a Facebook page where seniors can post questions and receive answers.
When he’s not teaching seniors how to cook healthy, Chef Orton is using his kitchen to provide opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from the ARC of Dutchess County, three local school districts, and Abilities First. Chef Orton teaches adults with disabilities alongside his Bateman culinary staff who receive the same food safety, kitchen safety, and hospitality training. Four students will go on to culinary school while others have learned skills that will help them in a range of careers.
“These young people are so excited to receive the training and come to work every day,” says Chef Orton. “They are a true inspiration to me and my staff!”
For this vocational training and helping to prepare people for success in the community, Orton and his team were recognized by ARC of Dutchess County and was presented with the Bridge to Employment award on May 4th.
“Bateman’s culture has been embraced by my team and extends to the community through the services we provide,” Chef Orton says. What has been the recipe for his success? Bringing together two of his favorite passions: family and food.
Although his grandma is no longer his top food critic—she passed away a few months ago—Chef Orton says that he has 698 Dutchess County seniors who are happy to give him feedback. His story is powerful example of how service and compassion can inspire a community.
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