Food Waste in Aged Care

August, 2022
Food waste in the aged care industry

Food waste is a large problem in residential aged care (Unilever Food Solutions, 2022).

In NSW it is reported that food businesses, including residential aged care facilities (RACF’s), discard one third of the food served as waste (Unilever Food Solutions, 2022).

It has been found that “the NSW Aged Care sector alone generates a massive 15,230 tonnes of food wastage per year at an estimated cost of $1,000 per week per facility”.

Altogether this equates to RACF’s spending over $50,000 on food waste per year. Annually, food waste costs the Australian economy an estimated $20 billion dollars (Unilever Food Solutions, 2022).

Aside from economic costs, food waste is of concern in terms of sustainable development and brings with it a plethora of challenges including environmental and social impacts (Cook, Collins, Goodwin & Porter, 2022). In line with this, there has been a National Food Waste Strategy developed with the objective to halve Australian food waste by 2030 (Unilever Food Solutions, 2022).

Due to its contribution, residential aged care has been selected as one of the pilot settings for this initiative (Unilever Food Solutions, 2022).

In residential aged care, the population is an ageing one with their own set of specific nutritional needs (Grieger & Nowson, 2007).

During the ageing process there are many factors which can affect food intake and appetite and in residential aged care, the food provided is the sole source of nutrition for many residents (Bartl & Bunney, 2015). We know that food provided is only valuable to residents if it is consumed and unfortunately “studies in RACFs have reported levels of plate waste of between 7% and 27%” (DAA, 2012).

The only way to solve this problem however is by determining the underlying cause of the plate waste in order to develop solutions to tackle it. Food and plate waste in aged care can be caused by a myriad of factors so it is not simply a matter of reducing meal portions to manage waste, which would invariably result in higher levels of malnutrition in the home.

The underlying cause of the plate waste must be determined before solutions can be developed.

Potential issues impacting on plate waste include:

  • the palatability and quality of meals,
  • whether standardised meal sizes have been implemented to assist with residents receiving a suitably sized meal
  • the temperature of the meals when received by residents,
  • whether choice and variety have been built in to menus for residents in line with their preferences
  • the level of assistance provided to residents at meal times
  • whether meals are suitable texture for residents to enable consumption
  • the time lag between ordering of meals and
  • the dining environment.

Food Solutions can help you to manage food waste, food satisfaction and then corresponding resident intake through the development of nutritionally adequate menus based on resident preferences.

Contact us for further information and to discuss how we can support your service.

Dietitians Australia
Aged & Community Care Providers Association

Don’t let your residents or budget experience the side effects of malnutrition or dysphagia.
Call us on 1300 850 246 or email and request a call back.

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