Libby Elrod R.D., L.D.

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Libby Elrod, R.D., L.D.

As a registered dietician and Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Mission Regional Medical Center, Libby Elrod knows a thing or two about healthy eating. The Edinburg native has worked for decades in the food industry, helping patients treat a variety of illnesses through the power of a healthy diet.

Elrod’s interest in nutrition began when her youngest brother was diagnosed with a severe food allergy during childhood. She, along with her mother, a registered nurse, began experimenting with different food recipes to help her brother navigate his food allergy. When she became aware of a career path called Food Science and Technology at Texas A&M, her goals became clear. After graduating with a specialization in nutrition, Elrod accepted an internship at Texas Woman’s University in Houston at the Texas Medical Center. While Elrod’s initial career plans would take her outside of the Valley, it was a reunion with her high school boyfriend while she was visiting home that would bring her back to the Rio Grande Valley. The couple is now married with two daughters. “It was a blessing coming back to the Valley.”

At MRMC, Elrod is responsible for a wide scope of tasks aimed at elevating patient care and comfort. She oversees the vast majority of food services for the hospital, including customized patient meals and the hospital cafeteria, which provides meals for employees and guests of the hospital. From ordering food supplies to employee management, organizing food production, planning menus and budgeting, there’s no shortage of work involved in running a hospital’s food system. “The production side of food, especially in a hospital, is different than when you go to a retail type of restaurant,” she said.

The well-being of the patients at Mission hospital keeps Elrod motivated each day. “Many times, people are here during the most difficult time of their lives,” she said. “They’ve got an illness, and we’re the caregivers. In the hospital, we have people that have many different types of illnesses that have separate dietary requirements. It’s really important to provide each patient with food that will help nourish them and help them get well while maintaining the restrictions the doctors have placed on what they can and cannot eat. We’re constantly adjusting what we’re producing to meet those patients’ needs and make mealtime an enjoyable experience while they’re with us. They trust us to give them that support and help them get better. I think that’s part of being a leader in healthcare.”

On any given day, Mission Regional provides meals for 120–160 patients, three times per day, as well as scheduled between-meal snacks for patients that require them. The department currently has 28 full-time employees and five part-time employees. “It takes a lot of coordination and a lot of dedicated people to make it happen,” says Elrod. “Our staff is amazing. We have people that truly care about what they do every day,” she said. “We open opportunities for people to bring new ideas, and welcome those ideas, and work in an environment with collaborative people that know they do something important every day, which is to provide nourishing meals for our patients, the public and our employees.”

Having worked at several hospitals throughout South Texas, Elrod says her current role at MRMC feels like the right fit. “Mission Hospital is a great place to work. The culture here is fabulous,” says Elrod. “When I started, I was amazed at the support from my peers. It’s like a family environment where everyone is covering you, making sure if you have questions you get help. It was a wonderful, refreshing change for me. Throughout the time I’ve been here, we’ve worked really hard at building a team and making sure we all take care of each other.”

Libby Elrod and the staff at MRMC Cafeteria welcome the public to join them for meals, especially when the costumed staff goes all out with themed menus for a variety of holidays!

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