Aged Care Royal Commission witness and food personality, Maggie Beer AM, is set to improve residential aged care food.
In its recent Federal Budget, the Australian Government provisioned $5 million to the Maggie Beer Foundation to address the Royal Commission’s concerns about the poor quality, unappetising food served in aged care homes and the statistic that 68% of residents suffer from or are on the verge of malnutrition.
One Royal Commission witness, Ms Dassanayake, summed up most people’s concerns when she shared her mother’s experience of food in residential aged care:
“Until about, say, six months ago, dinner, it was normal to have party pies, sausage rolls, and just sausages. Mashed potatoes is the norm, and as the first witness said, I don’t think there’s anything in there except a whole lot of potato and I’m not sure even if there’s milk in there, so it’s not very appetising.”
Other witnesses working in the sector spoke of their concerns on the closure of in-house kitchens to cut costs and food being sourced from hospitals. Others said the average food budget resulted in meals with: “nothing nutritious at all, very few vegetables which were all over cooked and very small meals.” Relatives and friends were bringing in meals.
While acknowledging that up to 50% of residents have difficulty swallowing food, the Commissioners felt more could be done in serving appetising de-texturised food and thickened drinks.
The Commissioners recommended that the Australia Government increase its basic daily care subsidy to $10 per resident per day and that aged care homes report back on their food purchases.
Enter Maggie Beer
So how did Maggie Beer come to be involved in aged care food quality?
After her Senior Australian of the Year award in 2011, Maggie received more than 900 calls for speaking engagements. She shifted through the requests to find where she could add value.
There was one to speak at an annual aged care conference of 1,000 CEOs. Back in 1960’s Maggie had an aunt in aged care in Sydney. The aunt hated the experience and, at the time, Maggie felt powerless to do anything. Perhaps now she could. She set off researching food preparation in aged care for her conference address, and she wasn’t happy with what she found!
What followed was the establishment of the Maggie Beer Foundation in 2014 with the mission of “providing the pleasure of a good food life for all, regardless of age or health restrictions”.
In her Royal Commission statement she spoke of a systemic issue in relation to the quality and ‘appetite appeal’ of the foods provided in residential aged care.
It is fascinating reading. She conveys how many aged care cooks “fall into their position”. With nominal salaries of around $54,000 per annum, those cooks must perform wide-ranging onerous roles from food procurement, food safety compliance, managing staff through to performing miracles with an average food budget of $6.08 per resident per day.
She relates how one cook in an aged care home in North Queensland works to a budget of $4.50 per day! She argues that quality food can be provided for as little as $10 per resident per day.
See Maggie tell her story here:
What is Maggie doing with her Federal Budget funding?
Within its first five years, the Maggie Beer Foundation provided face-to-face Masterclass meal preparation training to 260 aged care cooks and more than 130 managers reaching an estimated 20,000 residents.
With Federal Government funding the training has now gone online. Launched earlier this year, the online training program features 11 modules of 30 minutes on topics ranging from “Delivering Higher Protein All Day” to “Feed the Eyes: Food Presentation”.
It’s expected that some of this Federal Budget funding will subsidise and expand this online training program for aged care cooks. We’ll watch with interest!
For in home catering, look out for our upcoming blog on the home delivery of quality food suitable for Australians with difficulties swallowing.
If you are seeking assistance for an elderly loved one, please feel free to call me, Danielle Robertson, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance at the right time and in the right place.
 DR Care Solutions: Federal Budget - Aged Care Funding With No Workforce
 Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Final Report - Care, Dignity & Respect
 Aged Care Royal Commission Recommendation 112. The Federal Government endorsed the increase and it came into effect on 1 July 2021: Basic Daily Fee Supplements for Aged Care
 Maggie Beer Foundation
 Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Statement of Maggie Beer
 Maggie Beer: Aged Care Skills Training Program for Cooks & Chefs