Community Chef is a social enterprise that provides quality meals for people nutritionally at risk, often the elderly, people with a disability, hospital patients and aged care residents. The company collaborated with CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia (FIAL) through the SME Solution Centre to support the long term food security and nutritional well-being of those most vulnerable in the community.
Too much food, not enough nutrition
Community Chef is the largest provider of prepared meals for the aged and disability care sector in Australia. They are passionate about providing a leadership role in advancing the nutrition of meals.
Feedback from their clients was that current meal sizes were too large. This meant that clients were at times not getting adequate daily nutrition and they were also often wasting food. Some clients reported preferring to skip meals so as not to waste the food that was left, further missing out on their daily nutritional intake.
The company needed a process for modifying their recipes to increase the nutritional density and reduce the portion size of meals but still conform to or exceed the Commonwealth and Victorian Government Home and Community Care (HACC) guidelines.
Nutritional profiling and assessment of meals
Our dietitians trained in nutritional profiling of foods and food components assessed and remodeled some of the company’s most popular menu items against HACC guidelines and the Nutrient Reference Values set by the National Health and Medical Research Council. We looked at total energy, protein and a range of macro and micronutrients of concern for the aged population at risk of malnutrition such as fibre, zinc, iron and calcium.
We developed recommendations for the energy and protein required for nutritionally dense, reduced portion meal components such as soups, desserts and sides to assist the company with future recipe development.
Increasing the nutritional density of prepared meals
We increased the nutritional density of many dishes by fortifying recipes through the use of whole foods and whole food additives such as skim milk powder. This enabled Community Chef to reduce the portion sizes slightly, leading to less food wastage.
Our recommendations set a benchmark for defining the appropriate energy and protein content of various meals, which allows the company to mix and match meal components and still meet the nutritional requirements of the meal overall.
It became clear that the current Home and Community Care meal service guidelines, which are now more than thirty years old, may need revising owing to considerable changes in life expectancies and dietary, social and cultural behaviours which could affect the specific dietary requirements for aged populations.
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