Ilana Herman is a speech pathologist (SLP) and the president/CEO of the newly formed company The Independent Feeding Tray Inc. She has resided with her husband in Riverdale for the past 42 years, where they raised their two sons.
The name of her unique adaptive technology is the Independent Feeding Tray (INFT). The INFT was developed and designed by Herman for adults and children who have the use of only one hand when feeding themselves at mealtime. It is a food tray with a cup molded to either the right corner of the tray for a patient who has the use of only the right hand or the left corner for a patient who has the use of only the left hand when eating. The cup molded to the tray has four rubber flaps on the upper part to keep it from moving when a patient scoops the food at meal time.
Herman has been practicing as an SLP for the past 40 years. She has been a senior SLP staff member for the past seven years at the United Hebrew Geriatric Center located in New Rochelle, New York. She previously worked at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale for 26 years. She expressed that she found her calling early on in her career to work with the geriatric population in nursing homes as well as short-term rehab patients of all ages.
Herman has been very frustrated for her patients who have suffered from a stroke, Parkinson’s, dementia, tremors, neurological diseases and orthopedic injury who have the use of only one hand to feed themselves during mealtime, when she sees them struggling to feed themselves with the use of only one hand. The patient who has the use of only one hand to eat will become frustrated or simply give up with trying to feed themselves. The staff will not always have the time to sit with the patient to stabilize the food item, and family members may not be available at mealtime. Herman says that very often the patient will give up and will not eat due to their frustration. The INFT will provide them with the ability to eat independently.
Herman’s specific goal in designing the INFT is to return “independence and dignity” to these patients.
The initial design of the INFT has gone through a number of changes via several 3D protypes, and now, said Herman, the “INFT is available as full-size prototypes, a right and left tray for adults and a separate, smaller-size tray for children.” The injection molding company that Herman is working with is located in Chennai, India. The Hermans stated that they will have the INFT available in the near future for the healthcare market. The INFT will be offered in a light red color, which is typically used in nursing homes, hospitals and other markets. The entire food tray including the cup molded to the tray will be food-grade polypropylene resin. The four flaps on the inside of the cup will be made of rubber-like material. Herman stated that the cup molded to the tray “will never get lost or misplaced in the kitchen of the nursing facility” as many other adaptive tools do.
Herman is in the final stage of obtaining the National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF) mark for the INFT, which is required for any food tray used in a healthcare facility. The INFT is patent pending.
In March 2020, the Hermans attended the International Restaurant & Food Service trade show, where the INFT was nominated as the unique adaptive technology. Several of the trade-show guests told the Hermans that their family member (grandmother who is homebound or child with cerebral palsy) would certainly benefit from the INFT. The current target market for the INFT is nursing homes, rehab facilities, homebound patients following their stay in short-term rehab, hospitals and special needs children. As the Hermans look to the future, they see the INFT as an adaptive technology tool for wheelchairs as a fold-up.
Herman described how beneficial the Independent Feeding Tray would be for the recovering COVID-19 patients she has been working with. She said that “restoring their independence and dignity” when eating is such an important goal in their recovery.