Posted on Monday, 14th February, 2022
Unilever Food Solutions was privileged to be invited to attend the first Australian National Congress on Food, Nutrition and the Dining Experience in Aged Care, organised by the Maggie Beer Foundation in partnership with the Australian Government Department of Health. The event was held both online and live at the International Convention Centre in Sydney on the 18ᵗʰ of February of 2021.
The findings from the National Congress on Food, Nutrition, and the Dining Experience in Aged Care held in February 2021 were released in November 2021.
130 attendees of the Congress identified 9 key areas of food in Aged Care which the Department of Health could use to transform the sector. The Attendees represented a comprehensive cross section of Aged Care industry subject matter experts.
In total there were 56 specific findings. For a summary of the 9 topic areas identified, see below.
The 9 key areas identified by the participants of the Congress:
1. The importance of food
Food, nutrition and the dining experience are urgent issues. The Congress found that changes were necessary at both a macro level - small, simple to implement innovations, as well as overarching infrastructural changes that created challenges.
2. Best practices – Australia and around the world
Australia is not the only country with these issues and would benefit from increased international awareness and collaboration.
3. Consumer choice and dignity
There is a lack of transparency and accountability in the delivery of food, nutrition and the dining experience. Best practice screening and reporting on malnutrition, Quality of Life and food experiences will improve informed choices for residents and their families.
Health and allied health professionals including GPs, dietitians, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, dentists and dental hygienists, mental health workers, podiatrists, physiotherapists and others are not adequately available to residents. The creation of multidisciplinary teams was well supported by the Congress.
5. Oral health, swallowing and hydration
Oral health of residents coming into aged care is not always up to standard. Increased dental services and attention to oral health by care workers within aged care will alleviate many eating problems.
6. Food production and presentation
There is variability in the quality of meal experiences with some homes demonstrating successful initiatives to improve practices, but many homes exhibit poor practices as well. A clear direction and commitment by management has been required to implement effective change.
7. Menu planning and innovation
Mechanisms to ensure collaboration between management, health professionals, nursing staff, cooks, chefs and resident foodie groups will result in food that better suits cultural and residential diversity, and provide greater choice.
8. Dining experience
The joy of food can be increased by infrastructure changes. One successful approach has been to remove certain institutional food preparation practices and large dining halls. They are instead replaced with accessible home styled kitchenettes where food can be cooked and finished attractively, residents can participate, and aromas and flavours of fresh food drive appetites. The small household model of accommodation facilitated this approach.
9. Staff, skills and training
The workforce engaged in the planning, preparation and serving of food is in many instances not adequately rewarded and lacking in the skills necessary to fulfill their roles to minimum standards. Elevation of the roles of chefs and the introduction of training programmes for all those involved in food handling, serving and preparation are required to improve the quality of the workforce.
The findings align closely with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. The Maggie Beer Foundation is drafting a “Charter of the Coalition of the Willing” to continue to develop the work started by the Congress.