For the first time, nationally consistent guidelines have been introduced for the home delivered and centre-based meals sector under the Commonwealth Home Support Program.
While initially implemented as a set of voluntary standards, the national meal guidelines replace existing state-based guidelines to provide nationally consistent advice to CHSP meals providers.
The guidelines were formally launched by the Australian Meals on Wheels Association (AMOWA) at Parliament House on Wednesday. The federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt addressed the event.
AMOWA secured $150,000 from the federal government to develop the guidelines and commissioned the University of Wollongong’s Smart Foods Centre to undertake the project, which included a literature review and national consultation with stakeholders.
Nelson Mathews, president of AMOWA, said the guidelines are underpinned by the latest nutritional research but also emphasise the appeal, presentation and quality of meals.
Service providers are encouraged to use the new guidelines as a central point of reference for menu planning and review, tender specifications and the consideration of new products and recipes.
The guidelines clarify key food and nutrition issues such as healthy weight, eating enough food, dietary restrictions and splitting meals, and provide tips and strategies for enriching meals and snacks for older clients and those with reduced appetites.
The resource also outlines the warning signs of weight loss, and includes information on malnutrition screening tools.
Other issues covered in the guidelines include tips for food packaging to ensure accessibility, meal enjoyment and texture modified meals.
The guidelines have been developed by expert and steering group committees and informed by national consultation involving workshops and surveys with stakeholder groups including meal service providers, volunteers, consumers, dietitians, other allied health professionals, and cooks and chefs.
As part of the consultations, 337 clients were surveyed about their experience and preferences around home delivered and centre based meals.
Nutrition, taste and portion size were rated as highly important.
Clients said they were interested in more opportunities to eat with others, which included the option to purchase additional meals for visitors. The availability of snacks and the option of pantry items being provided were other client suggestions.
The project team also conducted an online survey with 289 service providers, caterers and health professionals. It found that 47 per cent of service providers sourced meals externally, 42 per cent prepared their own meals and 11 per cent did both.
Home deliveries made up the bulk of the services (57 per cent), while centre-based meals were provided by 11 per cent and 32 per cent of services offered both options.
Cook-fresh items were offered by 64 per cent of services, 37 per cent incorporated cook-chill, 42 per cent included some cook-freeze items, and 24 per cent used a combination of food service systems.
Stakeholders recommended a range of measures to further support meals services including webinars and additional training opportunities for providers on areas such as nutrition screening and the development of validated questionnaires to review customer satisfaction with meals.
Download the National Meal Guidelines from the Australian Meals on Wheels Association.
Key topics covered in the guidelines:
- key food and nutrition issues such as weight loss and splitting meals
- meeting the nutritional needs of older Australians
- the role of food and mealtimes
- meal and menu planning
- enriched meals and using snacks
- presentation and meal enjoyment
- dietary and meal considerations such as texture modification, diabetes and dementia.
Read extended coverage of the national meal guidelines in the upcoming Autumn edition of Community Care Review magazine.
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