Pork gets political for nursing homes

January 31, 2012
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Oh the joy of covering another presidential election year. Issues from years past rear their ugly heads as contenders’ strategists go digging for dirt against their opponents to boost their chances of victory. It seems each day brings a fresh scathing revelation for pundits to gloat over.

And hey, I’m all on board with that. Case in point for our LTC audience: A news item in last Friday’s New York Post reported the backlash Mitt Romney is getting from a veto he cast in 2003 as governor of Massachusetts, which in effect rejected $600,000 in extra funds for poor Jewish nursing home residents to receive kosher meals. “Let them eat pork!” the story proclaimed.

According to the New York Post, Romney said he rejected the funding of about $5 per day because it “unnecessarily” would lead to an “increased rate for nursing facilities”—even as kosher nursing homes were complaining that state-funding formula changes could force them to close their kitchens.

The Massachusetts Legislature approved an amendment to restore the $600,000 to finance the kosher meals, reported the New York Post, while representatives of the Jewish community decried Romney’s insensitivity.

As anyone in long-term care knows, for many residents mealtime is the most important time of day and religious beliefs dictate their food choices. Senior care communities are sensitive to these needs as Long-Term Living reported last April in “Feeding the Faithful.” As author Alan Richman noted, of the many religious/cultural dietary regiments found in LTC communities, kosher is currently the most common.

Keeping kosher does cost more for foodservice operations. David Figel, general manager for food and nutrition services at the Charles E. Smith Life Communities, Rockville, Md., disclosed in Richman’s article that food costs at his community run 46 percent higher than comparable foodservice in a non-kosher facility, due largely to increased costs for protein. Labor and training add to the costs as well.

Regardless of the moral implications of Romney’s stance, politically it was boneheaded of him to target a population that he dearly needs to woo. Stay tuned as we keep you in the loop with ongoing election year news—including the latest political goofs, gaffs and gambits as they relate to long-term care—in what’s sure to be a rough and tumble election season.

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