‘The Cook and the Chef’ put the pulse into aged care
Australian food doyenne Maggie Beer has taken her commitment to the ageing population – and Australia’s pulse industry – one step further with a pilot education program for aged-care food professionals.
Thirty chefs, cooks, catering managers and hospitality managers from Victorian aged-care facilities descended on the Barossa Valley in South Australia in June for the inaugural ‘Creating an Appetite for Life’ program – an initiative of the Maggie Beer Foundation.
The education program is a central plank of the foundation’s vision to change the ‘budget-comes-first’mentality that governs the kitchens of many aged-care facilities. It aimed to inspire participants and teach new ways to prepare healthy, tasty meals.
Disturbing figures released in 2014 by the Lantern Project Australia, a dietitian-led initiative, showed that between 50 and 80 per cent of aged-care residents in Australia are malnourished and at higher risk of pressure wounds, falls and mental health issues.
The findings present a challenge for the aged-care sector, which participants in the ‘Creating an Appetite for Life’ program said was often compromised by tight budgets, restrictive food-safety regulations and time constraints.
During the three-day intensive masterclass they learnt that pulses – a versatile and affordable source of dietary fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals with a low food-safety risk – can be part of the answer.
Program participants heard from industry experts including HammondCare’s chief executive Stephen Judd and executive chef, food ambassador and author Peter Morgan-Jones, who says the suitability of pulses for purees and thickening soups and sauces satisfies both practical aged-care requirements and criteria for fresh, seasonal and sustainable produce.
Pulses dominated the menu during the program’s final day, when Maggie and chef Simon Bryant revived their renowned partnership from ABC TV’s The Cook and the Chef preparing dishes including red lentil kifta, chickpea fritters with minted labneh, masoor dal and Boston baked beans.
Maggie told Ground Cover that although “pulses are stars in the nutritional world”, they have an identity issue in aged care. Her observation is backed by global figures that show Australians are low pulse consumers per capita.
“That is gradually changing as people are becoming more aware of the health benefits, but a lot of people in aged care are very conservative so we have to introduce pulses carefully through food that is familiar and inviting, which takes ingenuity,” she says.
The former Senior Australian of the Year says her ‘term in office’ exposed her to the best and worst of Australia’s aged-care sector and motivated a desire to help influence government policy on food-related funding and health regulations.
In addition to addressing the challenges, Maggie says the ‘Creating an Appetite for Life’ program encouraged participants to exchange ideas and her foundation has already received reports of change in some aged-care workplaces, including use of more fresh produce and a bigger emphasis on on-site meal preparation.
Maggie says the program was an important step towards realising the foundation’s goal to develop an improved food framework for the aged-care sector.
More information:Maggie Beer Foundation
Region National, South