ACC Guest Blogger: Dr Karen Abbey “Education essential to improve foodservices and menu planning”

April 27, 2016

Thank you to ACC Guest Blogger: Dr Karen Abbey

Foodservice is by no means an easy operation and understanding how it functions and getting the most out of all operations is really important to understand. For foodservices to function well, aged care homes rely upon the foodservice industry to come up with food products and ingredients which will assist with the building of menus. It also requires that staff are trained and educated in menu planning to build menus which are enjoyed by residents but also meet their nutritional and social needs.

Function of menu planning

When we talk about menu planning it is not a simple process. Menu planning involves striking the right balance between foods and ingredients, menu cycle length, foods combination, presentation and portion control. It also requires a certain level of nutrition knowledge and how foods contribute to this. Understanding the food preferences, likes and dislikes of what residents would like added to menus. But one of the biggest challenges is to design a menu which meets the needs of the individual while catering for a group of residents who’s needs are diverse, complex and at times requiring texture modification.

The role of the foodservice industry

The foodservice industry has a responsibility to provide foodservices in aged care homes with not only information regarding its products, how these products can be utilised in planning better menus, but to also ensure they are educationally supporting homes.When it comes to the food manufacturing companies their goal is to sell their product to aged care homes and get their product onto menus. But what is more important is to educate staff as to what the product does. How does the foodservice industry do this? In my experience the foodservice representatives personally call to provide new product information. Other means are through emailing product information, electronic food journals, food trade shows or publications like this one produced by Church Resources. It is then up to the catering manager to communicate the information to their foodservice staff.

We now live in a fast pace world where food development is ever changing and food manufacturers are looking for novel solutions to ensure market share. Diets have become more complex, the need for texture modified food strategies, and with the increases in dementia care and food intolerances being able to supply menu solutions to aged care homes is important.

What should company representatives know about aged care

  • Need to understand the foodservice environment and how unique catering is in aged care

  • Catering services and the types of services which age care provide to residents

  • Understand menu planning processes in aged care

  • Basic understanding of nutrition and how their products are used to deliver this

  • Menu ideas and how products can be used in multiply ways with recipes and product information which provides practical information to help with this process

What do foodservice staff need to know

All staff should have a basic knowledge of nutrition and an overview of special dietary requirements needed by residents in aged care. Understand how to menu plan as well as how to integrate diets and texture modifications. Keep up to date with new product information to enhance menu planning

Aged care is a complex environment and it is not easy to get thousands of meals correct every single day.  We owe it to the people we take care of to make sure the menu is full of tasty food and meals. The food service industry plays a very important in both manufacturing and education to support homes in the menu development process.



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