At the Clyde Barker Transplant House, respite and comfort food for the soul

A partnership with the Walnut Hill College culinary school gives transplant patients and their families hearty meals and much-needed kindness.

For family members accompanying loved ones in transplant surgery, the end of each of treatment day usually means a hotel stay or a long drive home. With just a nine-minute walk or a three-minute drive down Spruce Street, families can find a home away from home in the Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House, a guest house for Penn transplant patients and their families and caregivers.

Plate of pink frosted cupcakes.
Walnut Hill College students recently prepared a three-course meal of butternut squash soup, homemade dinner rolls, shepherd’s pie, and spooky, Halloween-themed fudge brownie cupcakes, complete with edible fondant spiders on top. (Image: Penn Medicine CAREs)

And nothing says home quite like a warm, hearty meal. For several years, the Transplant House has provided guests with delicious meals and treats through its Guest Chef program. The program is supported by the generosity of Penn Medicine employees and nearby university students who donate their time and the ingredients to create meals for House guests up to three times a week. Taking the Guest Chefs program to a new level, a recently established collaboration with Walnut Hill College allows Penn Transplant House guests to enjoy delicious, home-cooked meals prepared by culinary students multiple times throughout their stay.

When Walnut Hill College’s Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning Joshua Seery received a call from then-Penn employee Julia Lavenberg in the summer of 2018 inviting students to volunteer by preparing meals for families in the Transplant House, he knew the partnership would be a natural fit. Seery is the associate director of the Student Leadership Development Institute (SLDI) at Walnut Hill College. The SLDI is a program dedicated to developing and supporting the growth of future leaders in the hospitality industry. With the help of student leaders from the SLDI, House guests would get to enjoy healthy meals, and students in hospitality training would have an opportunity to perfect their recipes and service while giving back to a good cause.

The Penn Transplant Institute recently committed to continue funding the program for the duration of its existence. As long as Walnut Hill College students are willing to participate, the Transplant Institute has promised to provide the funds they need.

Read more at Penn Medicine CAREs.