Food is Medicine

The link between nutrition and mental health, and how NEXDINE Hospitality can be a differentiator at your Community.

Did you know that the brain consumes 20% of a person’s daily caloric intake, approximately 400 calories per day? In fact, it is composed of 60% fat and contains high concentrations of cholesterol and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) such as Omega-3s.

What is Serotonin, how is it related to nutrition and mental health?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, stabilize mood, and reduce pain. Recent evidence also suggests a link between low levels of serotonin and suicide. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system doesn’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. The function of these neurons and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria play an essential role in your health. They protect the lining of your intestines; ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria. In addition, they limit inflammation; they improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food; and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.

Nutritional Approaches to reduce depression and anxiety.

A study led by Felice Jacka, PhD, director of the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University in Australia followed 67 depressed adults. These individuals were randomly assigned to either a group composed of seven 1:1 nutritional counseling sessions over a 12-week time frame or a control group consisting of only social support. The dietitian helped participants adjust their diets, such as eating less junk food and more nutrient rich foods such as fresh produce, fish, and legumes. Only 8 percent of the control group achieved remission from depression, while almost a third of the dietary intervention group did.

Studies have compared the Mediterranean diet, to a typical “Western” diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower than the typical “Western” diet. The most common nutritional deficiencies seen in patients with mental disorders are of omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are precursors to those neurotransmitters we mentioned. Evidence gathered from demographic studies indicate there is a link between high fish consumption (a large component of the Mediterranean diet) and low incidence of mental disorders; this lower incidence rate being the direct result of omega 3 fatty acid intake. It is suggested that low glycemic index (GI) foods such as some fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pasta, etc. are more likely to provide a moderate but lasting effect on brain chemistry, mood, and energy level than the high glycemic index foods (processed and sugary foods).

It is also important to highlight My food & Mood study, which showed that dietary changes related to the Mediterranean diet were associated with reduced depressive symptoms when a dietary intervention was provided. The dietary interventions can be summarized by a high consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts; moderate consumption of fish; and very low consumption of red and processed meats, refined grains, sweet desserts, and whole-fat dairy products and ultra-processed foods.

How does NEXDINE fit in?

The International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research has recommended that nutritional medicine be considered mainstream in psychiatric practice. Therefore, when choosing a dining provider like NEXDINE you can utilize our Culinary Commitments as another avenue to address behavioral health. Commitments like “We incorporate whole grains and legumes to promote nutritional balance” and “The use of fresh seasonal locally grown fruits and vegetables is a top priority” are two examples of NEXDINE’s food philosophy.

In addition, our Registered Dietitians and Culinarians have technology like our MealSuite menu platform at their fingertips. Our menu platform provides Registered Dietitians direct links to the USDA Database which allow them to know exactly how many calories, protein, fat, saturated fats and sugar there are in each menu item. Our recipes follow our Culinary Commitments with fresh, seasonal ingredients. NEXDINE Registered Dietitians work hand in hand with our culinary team to create menus customized to each facility and their patient / resident needs. NEXDINE keeps up with evidence-based trends to create dining programs specific to behavioral and mental health for our culinary and clinical teams to achieve a true holistic approach to care.


Nexdine Hospitality is a sponsor of Mennonite Health Assembly 2023


Healthy Board Conflict

Whenever I hear a board member say how like-minded the board is and how everyone agrees with each other, I get worried!  Good board governance requires asking hard or unpopular questions, and some healthy dialogue that pushes critical thinking.

In the Anabaptist tradition, we value mutual accountability; understanding that Jesus is our model for how to live and be in community.  But Jesus was not a wallflower!  He spoke up, he questioned, and he even got angry.  He clearly did not accept the status quo and pushed against the cultural norms of the time. 

As Anabaptists, I think we can have a harder time expressing disagreement – we want to be good peacemakers!   There are very healthy and good ways to offer differing opinions and to question each other in a non-threatening way.

If your board culture is one of agreement and like-mindedness; it may be wise for the Chair to begin the practice of asking questions such as, is there something we are missing in our conversation? or they may deliberately offer an opposing view for the board to consider and ask for discussion.  There are many ways that a board can practice looking at a decision or action item from opposing viewpoints to get outside of a “group think” mentality.  New and different ideas assist the board in reaching an objective and balanced decision.  

Consensus-building and healthy debate are ways to improve governance and make better decisions.  Remember, once a decision is made, the board speaks with one voice. And individual board members present this united front to the outside world.

I would love to hear how your board is addressing or has addressed healthy conflict.  Email me your stories and experiences.  If you would like assistance or support in developing a culture of healthy disagreement, please reach out to me for assistance, at

Karen Lehman
President/CEO, MHS


Empower and Retain Your Front-line Workers

Engaged and empowered employees are the keystone to the success of your organization. Yet, a repeated theme I hear from MHS ministries across the country is you don’t have enough of them. This is particularly true of the front-line worker, the very employees who bring your ministries to life. New employees don’t show up for the first day of work or quit within a matter of days. MHS organizations have raised pay, provided bonuses, and improved benefits and these have made a difference, but frequently the employment gaps remain. Those who are working are carrying a heavier load and are more likely to become disengaged or quit. What used to work isn’t working in the same way anymore. We need new strategies. After all, one definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.

Initially, COVID seemed to be the culprit. The focus was on pushing through and getting to the other side. Data from Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the number of workers employed by senior care continues to be significantly below pre-pandemic levels with a 10.5% drop. Among intensive outpatient, hospital, and residential-based behavioral health establishments there has been a 5.9% drop in the labor force made more dramatic by increased demand for behavioral health services.

While COVID seems to have accelerated the employment gap, it is not the primary driver. There are fewer workers and it is unlikely these trends are going to correct in the near future. As of late 2021, 50.3% of U.S. adults 55 and older said they had retired from the workforce, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. As a generation, the baby boomers are the second largest group following the millennials. Population growth has been declining for decades primarily due to decreases in immigration and fewer babies being born. 1.2 million Americans are incarcerated. Between 9% and 26% of the decline in workforce participation among people aged 25 to 34, is probably due to a rise in substance dependency.

With a declining number of people available to work, it’s imperative we find a way to attract, retain and develop the front-line worker. One key strategy outlined by Ruth Weirich in her book, Workplace Stability is to create conditions that lead to retention, productivity, and engagement in entry-level workers. The premise of the book is the daily challenges faced by those in daily instability are unknown to those who live in daily stability. The author defines daily instability as the extent to which one does without resources ranging from the financial to relationships and role models to the knowledge of hidden rules, and more. The book seeks to help employers better understand low-wage employees as a pathway to improving stability. If organizations can help to stabilize employees, they can stabilize their businesses. It is important to note that a large part of providing this stability is learning about the hidden rules and mores of those living in different socio-economic groups. Workplace culture is built upon middle-class mores and this creates a disconnect for those coming from poverty, a disconnect that can make the first few days at a new job insurmountable. If we want to attract and retain employees who are living in poverty we need to move from a stance of frustration and judgment to a proactive one of understanding, valuing, and empowering. Ruth Weirich lays out three strategies with a track record of significantly improving retention:

  1. Create an accepting corporate culture: identify and address the disconnect between the culture of your organization and the unstable environment of poverty
  2. Train new and existing employees on economic class diversity: create awareness and a shared vocabulary to address issues as they arise
  3. Develop a network of support for employees moving from daily instability to daily stability

Ruth’s work is based upon Ruby Payne’s Bridges out of Poverty, a source I found to be immensely helpful in shifting my paradigms and increasing my respect for the specific skills and differences of those living in poverty. This in turn made me better equipped to understand and empower them to live into and further develop their strengths. As a network of Anabaptist ministries, this is part of our missions both for those we serve and for our employees.

You have an opportunity to learn more. Ruth Weirich is presenting both a keynote address and a pre-conference workshop at Mennonite Health Assembly 2023. An additional workshop, Retaining Entry-level Employees will delve into what this has looked like in MHS member organizations. I hope you can attend!

Objectives can lead to growth in any person, team, or organization. Use them to challenge yourself and become more of whom God created you to be. Take the time to celebrate what you learn and how you grow both professionally and personally. The paths you take can lead to having a greater impact than you previously imagined. What objectives do you have planned for 2023? Leave a comment and let us know!

Clare Krabill


Using Objectives to Make Impact

Are you considering taking on new challenges or seeking growth on a personal or professional level in 2023? Many people look to the beginning of the year as a time to name their intentions for the year. Setting objectives to meet these intentions that inspire and stretch you can set you on a path for growth in 2023. One of the freeing things about setting objectives rather than goals is objectives can be expansive, whereas goals can be limiting. While a goal is time-dependent and has a clear metric that measures success or failure, objectives are focused on actions with intended positive consequences.

One example of this may pertain to professional development.  Your goal may be to read 10 books on leadership development in 2023. Your objective may be to continue to grow as a leader by actively seeking out books, articles, podcasts, and people who can positively influence your professional development. There is space to shift, stumble, sprint, and continue to stride forward within an objective.

Here are a few tactics to support your work on your objectives:

  • Give your objectives time before starting: The excitement of starting can hit the wall of reality; many intentions can fail after just a couple of weeks. Write objectives that inspire you and then walk away from them for enough time for the initial rush of excitement to subside. Come back to them and pick the ones that still excite you.
  • It is okay to shift your tactics: If you initially planned to read more books in a year and then find another process more fruitful, do it! Keeping your focus on your objective and why it matters to you will help you to maintain your energy for the work at hand.
  • Give yourself grace: You can grow weary and distracted, or life can just happen, and not maintain the schedule you initially set for yourself. If you get off track, give yourself grace, and when you are able to, refocus. Your objective is still there to be worked on and to bear fruit.

Objectives can lead to growth in any person, team, or organization. Use them to challenge yourself and become more of whom God created you to be. Take the time to celebrate what you learn and how you grow both professionally and personally. The paths you take can lead to having a greater impact than you previously imagined. What objectives do you have planned for 2023? Leave a comment and let us know!

Nick Matthews
Communications Manager, MHS


Engaging New Board Members

What is the best way to ensure the engagement, effectiveness, and commitment of a new board member?  The best answer to that question is a good orientation and onboarding plan. 

A board orientation program does not have to be complicated.  It does need to have the commitment of current board members, the organization’s CEO, and senior leadership.  

The easiest tool to create is a board member orientation checklist that outlines all of the steps in an orientation process.  Having an orientation policy and procedure is also a good practice, but for ease of use, a checklist will ensure that you have taken all the important steps in an orientation process. 

The orientation checklist should include the following:

  1. Overview of the organization
    • Tour of the organization, satellite locations, etc.
    • Presentation by the senior leadership of organizational materials that cover the operations; service lines and programs
    • Important brochures and documents (website, an annual calendar, publications, and other materials that can be reviewed by the new member)
  2. History of the organization (founding, timeline of past events, articles of incorporation)
  3. Strategic direction (current strategic plan)
  4. Financial overview
    • Financial statements
    • Most recent audited financials
    • Current budget
    • Overview of financial structure (income and expenses)
  5. Organizational structure
    • Bylaws
    • Organizational chart
    • Board committees and structures
  6. Board operations and member roles & responsibilities (including fundraising, committees, etc.)
  7. Assignment of a board mentor

A good board orientation may take several months.  Introducing the new board member to important stakeholders of the organization can take even longer.   Orienting to the organization can be overwhelming so break up the orientation into several phases with shared responsibilities.  Involving the Board Chair, other board members, and leadership keeps the orientation process interesting and allows for various views and experiences.

It is particularly important to follow up with a new board member at regular intervals.  This is where the mentor role is so important.  Having a mentor on the board who is regularly in touch with the new member helps to answer questions and provide insights that may be overlooked in the orientation process.  The Board Chair and CEO should also be tasked with regularly checking in on the new board member.

It is important to keep in mind that the point of a good orientation process is to make new board members effective quickly.  Understanding the mission, vision, and values of the organization is the best way for new board members to feel engaged and contribute their expertise for the good of the board and the organization’s future. 

For more information, access the MHS Governance Resources page for resources and toolkits for recruitingonboarding, and mentoring new board members

Karen Lehman
President / CEO, MHS


Gifts That Help Now

Many giving strategies can help your donors increase their impact on your organization immediately and its important initiatives while also building charitable tax advantages.

Charitable IRA rollover

If a donor has an Individual Retirement Arrangement, they’re likely familiar with the requirement that they must withdraw a certain percentage from their account beginning at age 72, commonly referred to as a required minimum distribution. Supporters aged 70½ and better may consider an IRA charitable rollover (up to $100,000) to a qualified charity and not have that transfer count toward their taxable income in the year that they make the charitable gift. Charitable rollover amounts could count toward the donor’s required minimum distribution.

Making a distribution from a Donor Advised Fund

A smart way to extend generosity is to establish a Donor Advised Fund. A DAF is the equivalent of a charitable investment or savings account. After donors make an initial tax-deductible contribution to the account, they can recommend distributions to your organization now or in future years. Any funds that remain in the account are invested tax-free (or fee-free) to grow charitable impact over time. If donors have a donor advised fund, now is a great time to consider a gift to your organization from their fund.

Giving an appreciated asset

Donors can multiply the impact of a charitable gift when they make the gift of appreciated assets, like stock, bonds, retirement assets and real estate. In addition to receiving an immediate charitable income tax deduction, their gift of appreciated assets may allow them to avoid or reduce capital gains taxes on the gifted asset.

Please encourage your donors to consult with their accountant or financial consultant for specific information about and potential strategies for their personal situation. We’d love to talk more with you about smart giving options and the ways they can benefit your organization’s mission. For more information, please reach out to your local Everence Charitable or Stewardship Consultant or visit our website at

Elyse Kauffman
Charitable Consultant, Everence


Webinar Recap – Finding Revenue and Savings

Organizations are continuously looking for ways to improve their revenues. The more they can save, the more they can put those dollars back into programs and services that benefit their community. In this webinar, Finding Revenue and Savings, Alliance Purchasing Network (APN) and two of their vendors (Entegra and Inovalon) provided solutions to improve MHS Member’s bottom line.

Registrants joined from Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Colorado, all sharing insights into the successes and challenges their organizations are facing.

A few key conversation points:

  • APN carefully vets and negotiates with vendors so you get the best price possible.
  • Entegra offers a wide range of food distribution channels including global and local supply chains to help your organizations save money.
  • Inovalon offers Carewatch to leverage your clinical data to boost reimbursements, improve resident outcomes, and simplify quality management.

If you have any questions or would like to explore how you can find revenue and savings at your organization, please feel free to reach out to Donna Haney, National Account Manager, Alliance Purchasing Network / Covenant Health Network at If you have any questions about GPOs MHS Members can access, please contact Clare Krabill, MHS COO, at or call 574-534-9689.

Nick Matthews
Communications Manager, MHS


Three Productivity Hacks for You and Your Team

I have tried more productivity systems and philosophies than I’d care to admit. Finding ways to improve productivity, increase output, and continuously improve is alluring. The ultimate goal is to get back more time to focus on things that matter to us.

For teams, the goal is to support your teams in working on the right things at the right time. It matters to the individuals, the community, and the organization they serve. Teams have a collection of projects and tasks they need to complete. Keeping track of everything can be complicated without productivity systems in place. Also, teams can provide more complexity as each individual approaches tasks and projects differently.

Here are three ways a team can increase its productivity:

  • Make It Visible – The best-developed systems are only as good as their visibility. They can be on a whiteboard across the hall or online with multiple, timely steps to access them. If you make it hard for individuals to find the system, it will not be utilized. Create opportunities for people to find the system such as daily stand-up meetings, placing it in high-traffic areas, and saving digital systems as bookmarks on your desktop. Improving visibility gets your team in the habit of working with the team system.
  • Automate – The less you have to work in a productivity system, the more productive you will be. Those sound like conflicting ideas for a productivity system but it’s true. How often have you written or typed the same task for recurring projects? Finding ways to automate those steps reduces the friction a system can create. Digital systems can save recurring tasks or projects as templates. Paper systems can be a template that can be printed and kept on your desk.
  • No Two Brains Are the Same – Not every productivity system will work for you or your team. One person’s sticky note solution is another’s digital system that is accessible 24/7/365. Ask your team how they stay productive and find ways to incorporate that into the team system. This allows the team to take ownership of the system and keep themselves on track.

Making a team system flexible and accessible not only makes the team productive but also makes individuals more successful. Does your team have a productivity system that is actively supporting the work of your team? What other tips do you have to increase team productivity? Leave a comment below!

Nick Matthews,
Communications Manager, MHS


Three Foundations of a Successful Board

The importance of the role the Board of Directors plays cannot be overstated. The Board of Directors’ primary goals are to serve in the best interest of their organization and serve as stewards to guide their organization into the future. Despite differences in how an organization may operate and the industry they serve, every Board of Directors shares similar responsibilities.

While there are many vital roles for a Board of Directors, these three foundational responsibilities will support fulfilling the goals of your organization.

  • Establish the Identity and Direction: The Board of Directors is responsible for setting the organizational direction by developing and creating the mission and vision statement. These statements guide the strategic planning process and ensure planning aligns with fulfilling the mission and vision. The mission and vision statements should be reviewed every two to three years to ensure they accurately reflect your organization’s ideal future.
  • Allocate Necessary Resources: If an organization does not have adequate resources, it cannot fulfill its mission and vision completely. The Board’s responsibility is to carefully consider the best ways to allocate money and resources for the present and future benefit of the organization’s mission and the individuals they serve.
  • Ensure and Support Effective CEO Leadership: When a Board of Directors hires the CEO, they are hiring the person that they most trust to bring the right people with the right skills into the organization to carry out the mission, vision, and strategic plan they have established. Along the way, there is monitoring and assessment of the CEO’s progress. MHS recently discussed the importance of the relationship between the Board and the CEO in an article and webinar called “Fostering the Board & CEO Relationship.”

As an MHS member, you can access governance resources and consulting services supporting your Board of Directors and organization. MHS Consulting services include strategic positioning and planning, Board coaching, and executive search services. For more information, contact us at or call us at 574-534-9689.

Nick Matthews,
Communications Manager, MHS


Three Practices for More Effective & Efficient Board Meetings

I am often asked how a board can be more efficient and effective.  This is an important topic for busy volunteer board members!  

The first step to greater efficiency is creating an annual board work plan or board schedule (click here to download MHS’ sample annual board work plan).  This can be a very simple document that maps out your board meetings for the year and designates the duties and responsibilities required at each meeting. 

Items that are usually included on a work plan include:

  • Annual audit presentation
  • Budget approval
  • Annual conflict of interest statement
  • Corporate compliance statement
  • CEO assessment & compensation review
  • Board assessment (every 2 to 3 years)
  • Board member appointments/reappointments
  • Board retreat
  • Board education
  • Strategic plan review
  • Bylaws review (every 3-5 years) 

An annual board work plan, once developed, can easily be mapped out for 2-3 years ahead.  With a meeting planning structure in place, the board chair does not need to remember the most important agenda items for each meeting and what the board needs to accomplish.  Planning and organizing allows forward-thinking and ensures sufficient time at each meeting to accomplish the responsibilities of the board.

Another effective practice for boards to consider is setting an agenda that provides a timeline for the meeting and specifies the expectations and goals for the meeting.  Many boards use a consent agenda that includes staff reports and other documents to be read ahead of the meeting. Limited meeting time is allotted to answer questions or gain clarification on these reports and documents. Time allocated for fiduciary responsibilities is as important as time for open and generative discussion. 

At the end of the board meeting, seeking feedback on the meeting is important.  An evaluation can be done verbally during the executive session or electronically and reviewed by the governance committee for follow-up (click here to download MHS’ meeting evaluation tool). Asking board members to consider the effectiveness of the meeting is an excellent way to identify opportunities and make improvements.

In our busy world, we are often looking at how we can create more time in our day or find better ways of doing our work.  With that in mind, use these tips and tools to guide your governance work and watch them make a difference in your board’s time, effectiveness and planning. 

Karen Lehman,
President/CEO, MHS