Meals for Firefighters

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Abstract

Pickering, Ohio is a small town in rural South-Eastern Ohio with an estimated population of 7994. This small town has always relied on the services of volunteers to act as firefighters. In the last few years, the number of volunteers has ranged from seventeen to thirty. Due to the small size and population of the town, it has relatively few fires. This has made the volunteer system appropriate in handling fires. In the event of a fire, calls are made to the sheriff who coordinates with the fire captain and his team on how the fire will be handled. A challenge faced by this system is that, in the recent past, the number of volunteers has reduced significantly. This may be attributed to the fact that the elderly are retiring while most of the youths are opting moving out of the town and settling in cities.

The situation has forced the municipality to set up a full time, paid fire department with eighteen firefighters, a chief, and two assistants. Volunteers shall also assist them. The primary challenge that this department faces is the availability and preparation of meals. The past arrangement was that an annual fundraiser for a pancake breakfast was done. With new full-time, fully paid department, some levels of professional engagement are needed. There are plans to expand the existing kitchen and install ample cooking and storage facilities. The challenge is to plan how the firefighters will purchase food, prepare meals and share food costs.

Introduction

Firefighters play a significant role in safety management in a country. They are trained to fight fires to prevent or minimize loss of life and property. They also work to protect and preserve the environment from hazards caused by fire such as smoke, toxic material, and high temperatures. Firefighters can also be called upon to support other disaster management teams in community or national risky situations.

As they work to fulfill their duties effectively, they are faced with numerous challenges. Their job is considered high risk, they have to carry heavy equipment, and they are required to be constantly physically fit to handle their work well. As Wheeler (2003) adds, they also have to deal with feeding requirements and arrangements, especially when in the field to train or when on duty.

The challenges faced by the small Pickering, Ohio town over the last decade have resulted in the town municipality planning for a fulltime fire department that will be supplemented by the volunteers. It is expected that the new system will incorporate experienced firefighters with better skills and time in fire fighting. The current volunteers may apply for positions in the new fire department, but the municipality is swayed on getting new personnel for the full-time jobs. The municipality is tasked with establishing a new working schedule. This comes with the task of establishing a catering system to provide meals for the firefighters.

Problem statement

The challenge is to develop a plan on how the firefighters will be eating. This includes a plan for preparation of meals, food purchase and sharing of food costs. The underlying problems are certain factors and conditions that vary among the firefighters as people are different and with varied preferences. For instance, not all firefighters are good cooks or can cook to begin in the first place. Some of them may think that they are good at cooking while others may disagree with such an opinion.

The firefighters may have personal favorite meals or foods that they dislike. In addition, some of the firefighters may not be able to eat certain foods due to health or religious reasons. In addition, the amount of food every firefighter eats is different, based on body size, appetite, and other considerations. The municipal is careful not to spend too much of their funds on food. The amount contributed by each individual needs to be equitable to ensure fairness.

Methodology

This chapter describes the methodology that I used in arriving at the data I collected. I employed primary research methods to arrive at the data I collected. I used questionnaires and conducted a few interviews on the respondents to obtain first-hand information from them. I collected this data from both the fire fighting personnel and members of the municipal council in order to have a wider angle and assessment of the research problem.

With this approach, I was able to collect and analyze both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data provided accurate data for analysis (Kothari, 2005) while the qualitative data helped in the proper description and understanding of the problem in question (Kothari, 2005). When combined, they both ensured a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of the entire research problem.

Establishing the focus of the study

The research process is largely influenced by the values and motivations of the researcher (Kothari, 2005). When the two are positive, they enable a researcher to have a sustained interest in the topic under research for the entire research period. This way, the researcher remains both objective and focused on the research. My topic of research is interesting and dynamic. It is also a topic that attracts a lot of attention, given the critical role firefighters play to manage disasters in society. Due to this fact, establishing the focus of this research was not a difficult task. There is also sufficient information about the topic from past research projects, books, journals, magazines and data from government and non-governmental organizations.

Identifying the specific objectives of the study

The first stage of research is identifying and formulating the hypothesis or problem (Cohen & Manion 2013). Research is aimed at investigating a problem and using the findings to come up with solutions to the problem. My research on the fire department in Pickering, Ohio seeks to establish the associated problems with catering once the department adopts a full-time fire fighting department.

This establishment will mean a larger fire fighting department with extra persons who come with extra needs such as eating, and work on a full-time basis. The upgrading of the fire fighting department is a very positive step in development but comes with a catering challenge that needs to be investigated and addressed. The plan is to use these findings to come up with a plan and recommendations on how the new full-time fire department will handle their meals.

Rationale for the research methods used

I chose on using a questionnaire and conducting interviews to obtain the data I needed. I settled on these methods due to a number of factors and their suitability to my research. For instance, due to the small size of the town and small population (Heinrichs, 2003), questionnaires were a very effective method since the sample size was very small. This is because the volunteer system in use by the fire-fighting department only engages a small number of people who work as volunteers. In addition, the upgrade to a new full-time fire department of twenty full-time workers and a few volunteers still engages a few people in the fire department. The municipal council handling the fire concerns within the town comprises of a few members.

With those minimal numbers, I am confident that the 50 questionnaires that I used gave me enough concrete information and data as I covered a very big scope of the people directly affected by my research study. The interviews, on the other hand, provide a very powerful tool in obtaining data first hand from my respondents. This is because, through the interviews, both I and my respondents interact and there is a low chance of misinterpretation from any of the two parties. In addition, the town is small in size and getting the willing respondents for my interview was quite easy.

Participants

The main purpose of this research is to develop a plan for how the meals of the firefighters in the town will be prepared. This includes identifying the challenges and solutions to the objective. In obtaining the data for this research, I chose on engaging the volunteers of the fire fighting department, the full-time recruits and members of the municipal council that oversee issues concerned with fire fighting department.

This is because these are the stakeholders that are affected by the research problem, including the volunteers and full-time firefighters, and the other party being the municipal council, which oversees and has direct discretion on the fire department. By engaging these different stakeholders, I was able to have a deep understanding of the problem from both sides and come u wit solutions and recommendations that are equitable for both sides ensuring fairness to all parties.

Data collection techniques

When carrying out the research, I prepared 50 questionnaires and dispensed them to the respondents. I gave them two days to fill in the details and submit them back to me. The time was long enough to ensure they fill them up at their own convenient time, but also not too long to lose the questionnaires. After this time period was over, I collected all the fifty questionnaires from the respondents and went through the data that they had filled. I randomly picked fifteen samples to analyze the data they had given, and determine which people I would approach for the second part of data collection.

I then prepared a second questioner that was more detailed and was aimed at gathering more information from the respondents. I approached the fifteen people and asked them if they were willing to fill in a subsequent questionnaire, which was more detailed and required more responses. Out of these fifteen respondents, ten agreed, and I gave them the second questionnaire. I then analyzed the data obtained from all these questionnaires and came up with my findings.

In addition to questionnaires, I also carried one on one interviews with some of my respondents. I interviewed five people. The interviews I conducted lasted for 30 minutes each. They were interactive in nature. I started by first explaining the purpose of my research to the respondents and highlighting the key areas of focus and then subsequently engaging the respondents well through allowing them to air their views and opinions freely and finally responding to any questions or concerns that they had. The above methods helped me a great deal in relating to the respondents to understand the situation, and they helped me collect primary data.

Arrangement of the data

After conducting the research, all the questionnaires were collected, classified and stored for future reference and accountability. In addition, I took written field notes while conducting the interviews. The answers to the questions were also saved electronically to allow easy access for future research studies.

Findings

From the data collected during the research, I found out a lot of relevant information on the problem. For instance, due to the high numbers of males in the fire fighting arena, most of them cannot cook as a result of their gender identity and prescribed gender roles (Cancian, 1990). The few who are able to cook some food are only able to prepare simple meals and prefer eating junk food, as opposed to eating a healthy meal. This is because junk food is readily available and easy to prepare (Shiring Jardine, & Mills, 2000) if any preparations are needed before it is eaten.

Different people have different varied patterns in eating due to a number of factors such as the basal metabolic rate, age, and even sex. The fire fighting department hosts people with different characteristics and as such, their eating patterns differ significantly. Others eat small meals at regular intervals during the day while some prefer to take large servings of meals at regular times in the day.

These different groups of people have different likes and preferences in the food they eat. Some love eating meaty dishes, others are vegetarians while others are big lovers of snacks and junk food. Some may prefer cooking their own meals in their own preferred way while some are comfortable with ordering food from restaurants and hardly cook any food.

The people who volunteer to work in the fire department have different needs caused by different factors. For instance, due to the varied characteristics and biological needs of the individuals (McGuire & Beerman, 2011), each of them possesses a unique need. A good example is that some people were lactose intolerant while others were under medication and health constraints such as diabetes and high blood pressure barring them from eating any food and constricting them to a strict diet.

The municipal council also had a tight budget and minimal resources to generate funds (League of American Municipalities et al 1992) for the needs of the entire municipality. Due to this scarcity in resources, the municipal was reluctant in allocating funds in its budget to cater to the purchase of meals to the employees in the fire fighting department.

The members of the fire fighting department were reluctant to give contributions for their food purchase. The majority of them thought that it was the responsibility of their employer to handle their eating arrangements.

The respondents thought that an institutional catering system would not suit their eating needs. This is because they were of the opinion that a strict catering system lacked variety in the dishes it served them and the wholeness of a delicious healthy meal as the meal routine would be repeated and predictable.

Data analysis

Based on the gender differences and responsibilities of men and women, men and women from an early age take up their ascribed gender roles (Cancian, 1990). Girls start cooking and relating to kitchen stuff while boys handle maintenance tasks around the house (Cancian, 1990). When they grow up, men hardly cook, and women take up these responsibilities. Based on these, people in the working in the fire department mostly the men who make up the largest component of the fire fighting team have hardly any skills in cooking or minimal cooking skills for preparation of meals.

In addition, the few numbers of firefighters who can cook are only able to prepare simple dishes and lack comprehensive information about basic biological nutrition. This creates a very big challenge when it comes to cooking and preparations for meals in the station. The majority of the firefighters therefore, prefer to order takeaways to avoid cooking. There is a small population, however, that prefers to carry their own food packed from home. The women in the unit, however, prefer cooking and preparing their meals to their own preference.

Based on sex, physical and biological factors, people have varied eating patterns and energy requirements. Men have a higher basal metabolic rate meaning they use a lot of energy and require enough food to meet these needs (McGuire & Beerman, 2011). The age and physical stature among the males also dictate the energy and food requirements of the people. The station is mostly compromised of youth full and middle-aged men with few being above that age bracket.

These men have the highest food requirement (McGuire & Beerman, 2011), and their food intake (McGuire & Beerman, 2011) is highest in the fire department. It is observed that their eating patterns comprise of regular intervals of intake of food to replenish their food and energy requirements. The older men and women have lower energy requirements and food intakes. They eat in an ordinary manner; that is three times a day and hardly eat in between these intervals.

The team of firefighters comprises of people with different food preferences. The majority of the males’ appetites are triggered by meaty dishes. The women, on the other hand, prefer snacks and junk food and generally sweet foods. A small majority of the people comprise the vegans who do not take any animal protein (Shils, 2005). These varied preferences for different food greatly affect the intake of food in the fire department. I observed that the people were reluctant in eating foods that they did not like but ate willingly when their favorite foods were served including taking additional servings.

The few people who had special health issues were under a strict diet and would only eat the foods that they are supposed to with no room for alternatives (Shils, 2005).

The majority of the people in the fire fighting department were reluctant to give contributions towards payment of their meals. This is because they thought that it was the responsibility of their employer to handle their welfare including their meals. The few who were willing to contribute money however, thought that it was important that an equitable amount should be used in determining the amount of contribution that each member was required to give.

The municipal council was reluctant in giving contributions to cater for the meals of the firefighters. This was due to their tight budget and fixed resources that the municipal council had in their docket. In addition, the variations on food preferences, eating patterns and habits, quantity of food taken and health concerns of the different people will mean an extra cost in the purchase of food if the council decides to cater for the meals of the firefighters.

The firefighters were not comfortable with the establishment of a catering unit that would provide their meals. The majority of them saw this as a less suitable option as they believed that a catering unit and prescribed meal system would be monotonous and non-appetizing as the meals are repeated in accordance with the stipulated meal schedule.

Proposed alternatives

To tackle the problem and come up with a plan for the meals of the firefighters, proposed alternatives are discussed that are aimed at solving the problem. For instance, the firefighters should be trained on how to prepare certain meals that they will be eating, and practice cooking them so that with time all of them regardless of their gender affiliation will be able to prepare meals and cut down on costs of employing cooks. In addition to this, they should come up with a schedule of how the meals will be cooked and who will cook what and on what day of the week. The firefighters should follow this daily and ensure that it is a routine they adapt for their cooking of meals.

There should be equitable sharing on the amounts of contributions by the members of the fire fighting team. This should assess the food needs of each individual including those with special food requirements (McGuire & Beerman, 2011). The contributions should then be in accordance with the needs of a person. In addition, those with special food requirements should take the responsibility of ensuring that their food is bought and kept separately from that of the rest of the people.

The municipality should also consider chipping in some amount towards the purchase of food. This amount should be calculated by establishing the total cost of the food and budgeting by the fire fighting department. The municipal council may then come on board and allocate funds to handle the necessary foods needed and leave the remaining part of the budget to be handled by the contributions of the community members and the firefighters themselves.

The firefighters should come up with a proposed diet and table the foods that they are comfortable eating. In the event that the budget and amount of cash they have is enough, they may them implement this plan and move on to hire or outsource a catering team that will be dealing with the purchase and cooking of the meals. This will save the firefighters a lot of time and ensure that they have enough time to concentrate on their core business Ready, D. (1997) in the fire fighting unit.

The firefighters should agree on a common schedule of meals stipulating the meal times and exact meals to be eaten. When followed, this will instill discipline among the firefighters and ensure that everyone follows the stipulated schedule in place as they all agreed on the laid out plan. In addition, firefighters should be disciplined in their acts (Shapiro, 2003). They should serve enough food for themselves and leave enough food for those who are on duty or unavailable during meal times to come and eat once they return. With such a system in place, there will be harmony in the workplace when it comes to food-related issues.

Evaluation of Alternatives

The above alternatives have been evaluated and analyzed objectively to establish the most reasonable and suitable alternative to the problem. Through this evaluation, factors such as time, cost implications and long term benefits of each evaluation are analyzed to come up with the most suitable alternatives to the problems.

Recommendations

From the listed alternatives, I did evaluations and came up with the best alternatives that will solve the problem and come up with a plan for the purchase and preparation of the meals.

The department should have a reasonable budget for their meals, conduct little contributions towards the purchase of their meals and get some funds from the municipal council. Once they get these funds, they should buy foodstuffs that are within their budget. A good focus may be buying these foods in bulk and storing it (Scanlon, 2007), even though this alternative will require extra cash to purchase a refrigerator for storage (Scanlon, 2007), but eventually, this will be a good option.

The firefighters should then have a work plan of duties stipulating the role of each individual. Specialization may be encouraged by ensuring that each member cooks what they are comfortable with or good at. The few members with expertise in cooking should train those with minimal or no experience at all instead of hiring a professional to do so. With time and repeated practice of trial and error, all members of the unit will know how to cook well including the males as cooking is a skill greatly nurtured through practice (Scanlon, 2007).

The discipline of members should be instilled on a personal basis to ensure that people eat appropriately and at the prescribed times for the meals. In addition, this discipline should be practiced by all members when serving food for themselves as they are required to consider their colleagues who are out on duty.

Conclusion

The conditions that affect the buying, preparation, and cost of sharing meals are varied and pose a great challenge to the successful provision of meals to the firefighters. The varied character traits, sex, and food preferences for different individuals only serve to make the situation more complicated, because each individual has their own tastes and preferences when it comes to meals and their preparations. Handling these bottlenecks well through ensuring a considerate and inclusive system is put into place is key to ensuring that the problem is tackled well. This further minimizes the challenges facing firefighters, volunteers and all the people dependent on them.

Understanding the problem comprehensive through research and study will help resolve it in a more accurate manner. In addition, involving all stakeholders, including the firefighters and relevant state departments will help come up with and implement inclusive solutions. The solutions and alternatives proposed above will go a long way in ensuring successful tackling the problem faced by firefighters in Ohio, and other United States fire departments facing similar challenges.

References

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