Celebrity chef and former Senior Australian of the Year Maggie Beer is on a crusade to improve the quality of food in aged care facilities.
This year she is taking her mission on the road, running workshops with aged care workers across regional Australia.
Her first stop this week was Wollongbar where she held a masterclass for 30 aged care cooks.
“I want to show cooks and chefs in aged care that I think they have the most important job,” Ms Beer said.
“They can make such a difference to the lives of every resident in their care, more than anyone else can, and I want to encourage them.”
Ms Beer said she was first inspired to work with aged care providers after being named Senior Australian of the Year in 2010.
The title resulted in 900 speaking requests that year, including a presentation to 1,000 aged care chief executives.
“I did a lot of research and found wonderful things and terrible things about food in aged care,” she said.
“It took a few years to germinate what I could do, but I formed the Maggie Beer Foundation and I pull people from all over Australia who are passionate about aged care and food and that’s what started it.
“It’s all about giving equal measures of pleasure and nutrition. Without pleasure, what is there in life?
“Without the right nutrition, how do we give enough body mass and muscle mass to be active and to be able to engage in life instead of just existing?”
Ms Beer will also meet with aged care managers at workshops in Grafton and Armidale this month, which she said was a vital step to ensuring the passion of cooks was fostered.
“If I can’t encourage the CEOs, no matter how passionate the cook or chef is they’re still going to be bashing against a brick wall,” she said.
Ms Beer said the greatest challenge raised by aged care workers in creating wholesome and delicious meals was a lack of funding.
“Everyone is working so hard in aged care and budgets are so squeezed,” she said.
“What we’re trying to say is ‘We have to think differently’; we have to step back and look at a different way to distribute money — more money on good, fresh food with pleasure and nutrition side by side.
“Good food gives such positive energy — not only for residents but for the staff being proud and the whole emotional wellbeing of everyone.
“It can all start with food.”
Ms Beer’s top tips for aged care homes were:
Always use fresh vegetables in season (no frozen vegetables)
Get rid of boosters from the pantry and make your own stock
Always use butter (not margarine)
Throw out anything low-fat or diet
Don’t use preservatives and processed foods (make everything from scratch)
Plant a herb garden.