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The Maggie Beer Foundation’s urgent fight for improved food and nutrition in Aged Care with National Congress Report findings

10 March, 2021

This morning, the Maggie Beer Foundation (MBF) delivered a comprehensive report to the Department of Health on food, nutrition and the dining experience in Aged Care.

The report, prepared with Deloitte, is the result of Australia’s very first National Congress on Food, Nutrition and the Dining Experience in Aged Care. It highlights 56 findings and 139 possible action points across nine key topic areas, many of which align with the recommendations identified in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety report.

“We know the role of food in aged care is currently undervalued. Focusing on food and appetite and, in doing so, good nutrition, stimulates the senses, supports health and wellbeing, provides pleasure, conveys respect and care and acts as a facilitator for social interaction,” said Maggie Beer.

“It provides a sense of purpose and anticipation. It is at the heart of quality of life, and it is an urgent issue” said Maggie.

The National Congress, which was held in Sydney on February 18 and 19, brought together local and international experts to discuss the relationship between good food, nutrition, the dining experience, and wellbeing outcomes for older Australians.

In determining opportunities and best practice, the working group identified several themes including:

  • Food, nutrition and the dining experience is an urgent issue. Australia is not the only country with these issues and would benefit from increased international collaboration
  • There is variability in the quality of meal experiences with some homes demonstrating initiatives to improve practices but many homes exhibiting poor practices
  • 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 outcomes for residents and their families
  • 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 programs are required to improve the quality of the workforce
  • 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
  • Oral health of residents coming into aged care is not always good and increased dental services within aged care will alleviate many eating problems
  • Mechanisms to ensure collaboration between management, nursing staff, cooks and chefs and Resident Foodie Groups will result in foods that better suit cultural and residential diversity and provide greater choice
  • The joy of food can be increased by infrastructure changes that remove institutional food preparation practices and large dining halls, replacing them with accessible home-styled kitchenettes where food can be plated appealingly, where residents can participate, where the aromas and flavours of fresh food drive appetite

“The findings of the National Congress and its close alignment with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care final report is such a positive step forward and an opportunity to bring all stakeholders together around the table to find real solutions that our aged care residents deserve.”

“There are so many people in aged care working so hard but often without the support or being empowered to do things better but when given the respect together with the skill, the practical ideas along with the inspiration, it is an incredibly powerful thing that we have seen individuals bring about amazing change”, said Maggie.

Established in 2014, MBF has been instrumental in advocating and working to improve food experiences for older Australians.

The first of its kind, the National Congress on Food, Nutrition and the Dining Experience in Aged Care working group included the Australian Government Department of Health, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission; alongside Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA); Aged Care Guild; Australian Dental Association; Compass Group; Deloitte; COTA Australia; Dementia Australia; Ngaire Hobbins; Dietitians Australia; Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA); Flinders University, College of Nursing and Health Sciences; Leading Age Services Australia (LASA); Maggie Beer Foundation; National Advisory Group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Flexible Aged Care (NAGATSIAC); Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN); Stephen Judd; Speech Pathology Australia; The Ethics Centre; University of Melbourne, Department of Endocrinology.

The subsequent findings and action points detailed in the report will inform future Government policy relevant to food and nutrition in the sector.