The Maggie Bear Foundation established in 2014 aims to improve the food experiences for older Australians. Working in fellowship with her board of industry leaders, professors and health advisors, Maggie is focused on how the food that we eat impacts upon brain health and general wellbeing.

Maggie Bear was Senior of the Year in 2010 and used this platform to announce her intention to influence for change for residents of aged care facilities.

A recent study from Flinders University by Louisa Matwiejcyk reflects the crucial role that the food service staff play in supporting wellbeing for residents. Her study reflected that food quality is vital, as ‘autonomy’ in food choice is lost for individuals when they transition to residential care.

Thirty senior level chefs and one cook from 27 Victorian aged care facilities took part in a three-day education program, developed by the Maggie Beer Foundation. The objective was to reconnect to the principles of good nutrition and fresh produce and explore other topics such as food budgeting, supplier relationships, share aged care specific recipes and menus and discuss the importance of dining room management.

Participants took part in 10 sessions which consisted of discussion, hands-on activities and demonstrations in a kitchen setting.

A few months later, Matwiejcyk’s team found that all participants were acting as ‘change agents’ within their places of employment. Recipes were being used with some modifications required due to budget constraints. There was an increased use of fresh stock, fruit and vegetables and kitchen-garden herbs, and simple changes to the dining experience of residents was explored. This included layout and meal timing and offering an additional drink to encourage residents to linger and socialise.

However, there are significant barriers to implementation, including costs, time constraints and food regulations and the practicalities of care routines, including medication rounds, showering and other daily requirements.

The program provides the opportunity to connect with celebrity chef, Maggie Beer, but it also offers an educational refresh for chefs, with peer-support and behavioural change.

One suggested initiative from Maggie Beer, is the creation of kitchen-gardens that residents can assist to maintain, and where simple produce like silver beet, kale and herbs can be grown and shared for meals. This could be a larger community garden project or a collection of easily grown plants in pots.

Maggie believes that this engagement serves to connect residents with each other and their food sources, increasing their well being and pleasure in the fuel of life, food.

More information here: www.leadingnutrition.com.au/maggie-beer-foundation-chefs-training-for-aged-care/