Specialist food on the move

25 Aug 2016

Jewish Care produces a staggering two million plates of food a year which is an integral part of the service we provide to the community.

Over the years we have experienced an increase in frailty levels and complexity of need particularly across our care homes. When we brought our catering services in-house three years ago we committed to investing in product development for our clients with specialist dietary needs. With around 10% of people living in our care homes presenting with Dysphagia, a diffi- culty in swallowing, we set about developing the first kosher reformed meals – pureed food that both looks and tastes as it should.

Richard Munns, who is responsible for Catering Services across Jewish Care, explained: “We strive to ensure that the food we provide is appetising, nutritionally effective and visually attractive. It is so important to us that our clients with Dysphagia are given the same high quality food, dignity and respect they deserve."

With the meals having been given the seal of approval from Jewish Care’s clients, we are now working in partnership with Hospital Kosher Meals Service to provide this specialist food to hospital patients within the M25. This new hospital range has been developed fol- lowing discussions with NHS food supplier Medirest, part of Compass Group UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest food services company.

Five dishes are currently available to hospital patients including both meat and vegetarian parev options with more in the pipeline. An estimated 600 meals a month will be required to start with.

Jewish Care Trustee Michael Blake attended the launch held at Chase Farm Hospital and sampled the new food range. He told us: “I genuinely thought it was a nor- mal spread of food, most of the dishes looked exactly like they would in their solid form and they tasted delicious. It will give people added confidence to eat when their meals look exactly the same as the person’s sitting next to them."

These new specialist meals will also be available to the many members of our community who use Jewish Care’s invaluable Meals on Wheels service.

To most people, Meals on Wheels is known as the kosher food delivery service for older members of our community. Yet to its recipients and to our committed team of volunteers, it has a far greater significance.

Richard Shone, who oversees Meals on Wheels, explained: “The food, whilst providing an important service, gives us the opportunity to regularly visit people in their homes, check that they seem well, and report if there are any concerns.

“We offer our volunteers a specialist befriending training course to ensure they are equipped to go the extra mile and assist our clients with anything they may need during their visit whether it’s preparing the food on the plate or just staying for a cup of tea and a chat. The service provides a connection to the community that many of the people receiving Meals on Wheels otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Meals on Wheels began in Redbridge over 40 years ago and today it is supported by over 250 volunteers who deliver between 50 to 60 hot meals a day plus frozen meals. The service also delivers 500 meals in Southend each year and will soon commence in Stamford Hill.

In Barnet, the Council recently ceased providing their own Meals on Wheels service. Jewish Care has quickly stepped in and carried out a very successful trial with staff delivering frozen meals to clients in Edgware, Finchley and Golders Green. With the plan to expand the current service, more volunteers are required locally to deliver the food.

Richard Shone added: “We want to give our individual recipients the focus and time they need – which is why a large pool of dedicated volunteers in Barnet is essential.”

Meals on Wheels isn’t just a service provided to community members who find it hard to leave the house. It can be just as valuable to someone active but who finds themselves in a vulnerable position, such as a recent widow purchasing meals alone or someone who struggles to cook for themselves. It can give them the freedom to go out without worrying about where their next meal is going to come from.

86-year-old Sonny Fineberg from Redbridge has been receiving Meals on Wheels for over seven years. “The service is vital to me as I have arthritis and I cannot bend down at the stove to cook meals. The volunteers who deliver the food are so friendly and the quality of the food is excellent. The team deliver to me three times a week and are kind enough to deliver an extra meal during their final visit to see me over the weekend so that I can get out and see friends rather than waiting for food to arrive.”

Jewish Care is in need of more volunteers to meet the increased demand of the Meals on Wheels service. If you would like to know more about how you can help please contact volunteers@jcare.org or call 020 8922 2405

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