Shaping better meals for older Australians

The Pure Food Co

By Jane Allman
Wednesday, 20 October, 2021

Shaping better meals for older Australians

The Pure Food Co’s mission is to nourish the world’s older people through quality food and nutrition, and to make a positive difference for senior Australians who may be struggling to maintain the nutritional levels required to lead happy and healthy lives.

Founded off the back of first-hand experience watching illness make it impossible for a loved one to eat, the company has been innovating and collaborating to bring the Shapes of Goodness range to aged-care homes and hospitals across New Zealand and Australia.

Launched in July this year, Shapes of Goodness is a range of texture-modified food — crafted to be delicious, nutritious, and safe and easy to swallow. The product is shaped to bring back the joy of mealtimes, with diners reported to consume up to 40% more.

The Pure Food Co Co-Founder Sam Bridgewater explained how his personal experience spurred him to make a difference.

“My world changed forever when I watched a family member’s illness make it impossible for him to eat. The emotional impact set off a journey to uncover how other people with such challenges cope.

“Our research revealed that too many people were struggling to enjoy food and therefore get the nutrition they need. In fact, almost a quarter of older people are malnourished, meaning they are more frail, less independent and, too often, unhappy,” Bridgewater said.

The PureFood Co's Founders and Directors, Sam Bridgewater and Maia Royal.

“Our mission is to reclaim the true value of food by creating delicious food that will help people thrive when they are at their most vulnerable.”

Hospital + Healthcare spoke to The PureFood Co’s Dee Reddy about nutritional needs as we age and how aged-care providers can make an impact in this area.

As we age, what dietary nutrients become particularly important and what happens if these requirements are not met?

“Evidence shows that as we age our need for protein increases to maintain good health, recover from illnesses and maintain bodily functions. Often our energy requirements are heightened, despite the fact that activity levels are often reduced.

“Depending on the level of comorbidities and health of the individual, older Australians will require additional energy in the form of kilojoules to support positive health outcomes. If these requirements are not met, malnutrition and weight loss will most likely occur, impacting quality of life and health outcomes. This, in turn, increases the level of care needed and therefore the workload of health workers.

“Malnutrition in the elderly can lead to weakened immune systems, poor wound healing, increased falls, decreased bone/muscle mass and impaired ability to fight infection.”

What specific nutrient requirements are difficult to achieve in an aged-care setting and how does the Shapes of Goodness range help to overcome this challenge?

“People in aged-care facilities often have heightened requirements for protein and energy, particularly individuals on texture-modified diets. It can be difficult to get enough nutrients into texture-modified food as it can be challenging for seniors to eat large amounts of modified food.

“Shapes of Goodness are nutritionally fortified to provide extra protein and energy in every mouthful, allowing individuals on texture-modified diets to meet their heightened requirements more easily.”

The Shapes of Goodness range is designed to be visually appealing as well as delicious.

Within an aged-care setting, roughly what percentage of residents require texture-modified meals and what are the main reasons for this?

“About 15% of Australian aged-care residents are on texture-modified diets. Residents can be placed on a texture-modified diet as part of the management of a swallowing difficulty (dysphagia). Dysphagic individuals have an altered swallowing process that can occur from conditions such as dementia, stroke, head injury, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy and achalasia.”

What factors led to the development of Shapes of Goodness?

“We believe food is not just fuel for our body, it's truly much more. We have experts in health care and food who curate recipes and flavours that are specially made for seniors. For example our roast lamb is so rich in flavour and visual appeal (looks like a lamb chop) that for those eating it, it will remind them of a Sunday Roast, helping them eat well and stay happy.

“Food is usually the highlight of the day for most residents living in care homes and we make mealtimes enjoyable with our beautiful shapes.”

What kind of responses have you received from residents and aged-care workers?

“We have received positive feedback from seniors and aged-care professionals. Aged-care workers have commented on the huge improvements in the texture-modified food being provided to their residents. They say they have peace of mind that their residents are receiving the best presented and tasting food that is packed with nutrition.”

Feedback from aged-care professionals

“I am a Kitchen Manager at a Taradale Rest Home. We have been using The Pure Food Co’s products for some time. Just started using the shaped product and love it! Looks great, saves time and a lot of our residents on texture-modified diets are unable to give verbal feedback, but we notice they are eating well. It is also good for families, seeing that we do all we can to maintain their loved ones dignity and show them respect.” Amanda Jean Olsen

“Absolutely recommend this company and this product. The presentation of the shaped food is excellent and there has been a great response by residents. A friend who also needed minced, moist and then pureed food said it was the best he had tasted.” Trish Gapes, Selwyn Foundation

What are the factors that need to be considered when it comes to providing meals to residents in aged–care facilities?

“Training and education is key when it comes to the meals provided for residents on special diets. We offer courses specific to providing safe texture and increasing nutritional needs.

“Other important considerations are staff engagement, the capabilities of the kitchen to prepare meals correctly and the budget of the aged-care facility.”

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