Forty years strong – Director of nutrition services works for patient smiles

Jeffrey Jones started working for IU Health 40 years ago and every day he says he approaches his job with a grateful heart.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

When he started working at IU Health 40 years ago, Jeffrey Jones pushed a heavy heated cart through the halls of Methodist Hospital filled with patient trays. It took three food lines to prepare the meals.

Over the years, Jones moved to University Hospital where he eventually became the supervisor of nutrition services. He’s been a part of lots of changes during the past four decades.

“I saw it go from three lines to one line and the carts are way smaller. Then I saw it go from patients ordering off a menu to what we have now where we take an iPad to the room and the orders go straight to the kitchen,” said Jones.

His coworkers recently planned a celebration for Jones’ 40 years of dedication and his 60th birthday. They served punch, cupcakes and one of his favorite staple foods – hotdogs.

For a guy who works in food services, Jones’ tastes are simple – his breakfast is usually a Mountain Dew and a package of peanut butter crackers. He loves barbeque pork rinds, cheddar cheese, Oreos, Swiss cake rolls and turkey legs.

“When you work around food service all day, you just don’t want to cook when you get home and I’ve always been a picky eater,” said Jones.

In his years of serving patients he’s come to recognize their cravings and tastes. Oncology patients love the soft, sweet taste of watermelon, patients with cystic fibrosis crave fresh fruit cups, and patients who have received transplants want lots of bottled water. In general, patients love cheese potato casserole, French fries, breaded pork tenderloins, wings, rib tips, and cheese steak sandwiches.

He’s been known to go out of his way to get what patients want as long as it is on their diet.

“Jeff is exemplary of our values,” said his supervisor Lynn Glunt, manager of patient service nutrition and dietary. She has worked with Jones for about 28 years and said she’s always admired how he interacts with his team members and the patients.

“He does whatever it takes to keep things going. He runs the register if the café line gets too long and I’ve seen him wash pots and pans,” said Esther Scanlon, a food service worker who has been part of Jeff’s team for nearly two decades.

“He’s the definition of an actual leader. He won’t ask you to do anything he is unwilling to do. I find that a great attribute,” said another team member Arin Suttice.

Jones grew up in Alabama and moved to Indianapolis in 1978 in search of gainful employment. It wasn’t long after he began working at Methodist Hospital when he met his future wife, Janice Jones who has worked as an operating room assistant for 45 years. She and Jeffrey were married 35 years ago.

People who work alongside Jones say that like his favorite foods, Jones is a man of simple tastes and few words. He inspires others with the TEAM theory: “Together” “Everyone” “Achieve” “More.”

“I would like to think I’m not a supervisor who gives orders. All the success we have is as a team,” said Jones “I want to know that we all took care of the patients and I just want to be in the background.”

He drives a Mini Cooper to work from his northeast side home, and enjoys golfing, and tending to his 150-gallon tropical fish tank. He occasionally goes back to his childhood home.

“The best part of my job is seeing the patients smile,” said Jones. “I feel like every day I come to work, they’re the purpose and when I leave at the end of the day, I hope that I have made someone smile. It’s not about the money; it’s about making someone feel better.”