THERE is a saying that an army marches on its stomach and it is Bury Hospice’s kitchen that helps keep staff and volunteers as well as patients and their families, going.

Diane Fenton and Christine McAdam are familiar smiling faces behind the counter of the Café Retreat, serving thousands of meals a year.

As well as ensuring patients receive meals that support their care plan, the varied menu reflects seasons and trends, and staff and volunteers pull out all the stops for Christmas.

And it is their caring attitude and attention to detail that makes the difference.

Cook Christa, who has been at the hospice 15 years, said: “Every meal should be an occasion and we have to get it right every time. Unfortunately, as patients deteriorate, they cannot always eat so you want to make sure they really enjoy every meal they have.”

The menu runs on a four-week cycle but the caring kitchen staff will often have special requests from patients.

Christa said: “If someone asks us, we will do whatever we can. A patient asked for fillet steak, which isn’t on the menu, and we found a way of doing it for him.

“We also have requests for holistic diets and requirements such as vegetarian and vegan.”

Kitchen manager Diane, who is taking part in Strictly Best Foot Forward, has worked at the hospice for 23 years said: “Some diets include the same vegetables every day so we find new ways of preparing and presenting them so it’s not the same thing day in, day out.

“Presentation is so important because whatever we are serving has to look appetising. Patients are often find it difficult to eat so even if it is pureed vegetables, it has to look delicious so they want to try it.”

Christa is known as the hospice’s cake queen, famous for her Manchester tart, Bakewell tart and lemon drizzle cake.

She said: “The kitchen is the engine room of the hospice and keeps the place going.

As with so many departments in the hospice, volunteers are key to its smooth running.

Diane said: “Volunteers are key – without them, we could not do it. As well as Christa, we have three lunch staff but everyone else is a volunteer, helping us serve meals seven days a week. It would not work without Mark, Peter, Pat, Jean, Judith and Theresa.”

Another group of unsung heroes who keep the hospice going is the housekeeping team.

Hygiene is a vital part of patient care and there are strict regimes governing how every corner of the hospice is cleaned, from rooms on the ward to the reception and boardroom.

All laundry, including staff uniforms, is washed and ironed onsite.

Housekeeping manager Anne Rickets joined the hospice when it opened at the Rochdale Old Road site in 2013.

She said: “There are two of us responsible for cleaning but we rely on volunteers to help us get through the laundry, especially the ironing.”

As well as the day-to-day cleaning, the team also deep cleans a room following the death of a patient so it is ready to be used again.

Anne said: “We have to cover seven days and there is only one of us on at a weekend, but it is one big family and is a lovely place to work. Everybody pulls together and does everything together to help patients and their families.

“We help the kitchen staff if they are busy, they help us with things – it’s real teamwork.”

As well as receiving help from volunteers, the hospice’s cleaning products are donated by Holchem and Barlow’s provides free annual services for the hospice’s vacuum cleaners.

Miller Vanguard also deep cleans the kitchen twice a year for free.