A Bristol charity has launched a campaign to revolutionise the quality of food served to people in Britain’s care homes.
Milestones Trust, which runs 50 homes in the Bristol area and provides a range of care services, is leading by example in creating a holistic, nutritious, sustainable food culture in the care industry.
The charity wants to raise the standards of care home food as Jamie Oliver has done for schools, and aims to make sure that those who prepare and cook food for care home residents are properly trained.
The charity is already celebrating receiving its own award for the quality of the food prepared at its Humphry Repton House care home in the city.
Louise Chambers, head of elder care at Milestones Trust, said people in care homes had the right to expect good quality food – and emphasised it was vital for their health and happiness.
“Food is one of those things that’s very emotive for people. It’s an important part of our lives.
“There are, of course, lots of care homes which provide superb meals every day,” said Louise. “But there are also lots that don’t. At Milestones Trust providing good food is one of the things we are passionate about.
“There are general quality checks in all care homes, but there’s no national food standard. So we’re looking to take the lead in raising the quality of food people eat in care homes, just like Jamie Oliver did in schools.”
The charity has already launched a training programme for people who prepare the food in its care homes in the Bristol area.
“Our long-term goal is to see the same kind of training rolled out across Britain,” said Louise.
The work that’s already been done by Milestones Trust has earned its Humphry Repton House home a Soil Association Bronze Catering Mark – the care home is the first in the Bristol area to receive the award, and only the second in the country. It will be presented to the charity at a special celebration lunch at the Brentry home on February 20, attended by dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Faruk Choudhury.
The award recognises kitchens where, among other things, food is freshly prepared, contains seasonal ingredients and is free from undesirable additives or fats.
Rob Sexton, chief executive for Soil Association certification, said: “Milestones Trust are leading by example, bringing good food culture into the heart of their care provision at Humphry Repton House, and highlighting the very real opportunity to raise the standard of food in the care sector – an area where the importance of fresh, healthy meals is particularly significant.
“Milestones Trust are ensuring their residents get the best possible care. At the same time it is supporting the local economy, reducing food miles, supporting higher welfare standards for animals, and keeping costs down by making the most of seasonal produce.”
Louise Chambers explained why Milestones Trust’s ‘Focus on Food’ campaign is so important. She said: “In some bigger care homes there are catering staff and a purpose-built kitchen where trained people prepare the food.
“But in many smaller homes, it will be a support worker’s job to feed the residents. And sometimes they will have little or no idea about how to prepare good, nutritious meals.
“For them, catering for their residents might just be a case of putting something in a microwave and heating it up.
“We’ve launched a ten-week training course for people preparing food in our homes which covers practical things like how to cut up and prepare the food, baking cakes, as well as subjects like animal husbandry, sourcing produce, and the importance of buying from local producers.”
At the end of the course, the students will gain a recognised qualification from Bristol cookery school the Square Food Foundation.
The trust is also looking very closely at how it can continue to improve its residents’ nutritional health, and has already secured funding to work with a nutritionist to review and improve the menus at its care homes.
In another development, Milestones Trust is working in partnership with local social enterprise organisation Growing Support to create vegetable gardens at its homes so that residents can not only grow their own produce, but enjoying eating it as well.
Naina Mandleker, Milestones Trust’s director of business development, said: “This is a huge project for us. The plan is to roll it out to other care homes across Bristol and the surrounding areas, and eventually we would like it to be a national initiative.
“We want to transform how people think about food in care homes. We plan to be the trailblazers in creating a holistic, nutritious, sustainable food culture in the care industry.”