When you think of catering in an aged care setting, technology probably wouldn't be the first thing to come to mind. However, after hearing from dozens of providers, chefs, nutritionists and health professionals at the Aged Care Catering Summit this month, it's clear that technology plays an important role in food for the elderly.
Here's our tech take from the Summit. We hope you find some golden nuggets to share.
1. Information is power and with technology you have information
Two key themes that emerged from the day were malnutrition and food wastage, and the impact this has on a resident's life in care. We all want our loved ones in care to have access to fresh, quality food and if they're not enjoying it, we need to know why.
Digital catering systems provide us with data. Data gives us information and information gives us power to make a positive difference to a resident's food experience.
Traditional paper based dietary management doesn't capture and store the detail a digital system can.
It's estimated it takes 2-3 times longer to care for malnourished residents, which means they're not getting the best care possible. By having access to resident food related data, sites are able to flag dietary concerns and be proactive when it comes to residents enjoying nutritious meals.
Dr Sandra Iuliano gave some insight into how she used food data (specifically dairy) to improve residents lives by reducing falls and fractures. Digital information helps us understand what residents are eating and how it in turn can help their health.
2. Artificial intelligence (AI) isn't just for millennials
AI is a hot topic and is being widely used in retail and food spaces. Now it's aged care's turn to tap into AI to tackle one of the industry's most common problem, food wastage.
The cost isn't in the food, it's in the waste - Julie Dundon
Dr Bahar Nakisa and Abbas Bigdell from the University of Melbourne and Aervision created a buzz about the potential to use AI to give meaningful meal information to residents families and care teams.
Their AI lets you see plate wastage for each resident.
Although an extra step in the meal serving process, food service assistants can use their technology to take a photo of the plate before and after mealtimes, with key information automatically uploaded to access. The current trial is underway and there's opportunity for sites to join.
Not only can AI help reduce waste on the plate, it also has the potential to do the thinking for us and reduce waste in the kitchen. Chefs of the future won't have to worry about checking food for best before dates or how full their stock is, they'll simply snap a photo and be guided what food to use first and when to put in their shopping list order. They'll even be able to take a photo of the fridge to see ingredients remaining and get a recipe to suit!
3. Use tech to get true resident preferences
We know that a positive dining experience is so much more than a simple yes answer to the question of "did you like the food?".
While some sites have had feedback and ratings as a result of the government resident survey, a detailed, specific survey to residents and family could provide better feedback to improve satisfaction and wellbeing.
With digital survey tools, you can get a true reflection of a residents catering experience in real-time, not just a standard question on how they feel during that day.
The recent star ratings introduction and changes to legislation shows food is becoming a focus. While it may currently only be a small part of the overall rating, investing in tech tools for catering and getting your own feedback is one way to get a true picture of residents meal experiences.
4. Kitchen tools will benefit those beyond the kitchen
The Summit showed us that technology such as the hot fridge has the ability to benefit chefs, but also others outside the kitchen.
While it may seem to go against our traditional feelings about food remaining 'hot', sites spoke candidly about how they use the new age equipment to assist with meal preparation and staffing issues, and their ability to serve nutritious meals to residents instead of pre-packaged foods, thanks to the technology.
Software like SoupedUp will also be a real game-changer for catering staff and beyond. By digitising resident dietary requirements and preferences, menu planning and costing, clinical, care and catering teams can equally work to ensure a positive catering experience for residents.