First it was Jamie Oliver with his mission to improve school dinners. Now the Hairy Bikers are on a crusade to revive and improve the Meals on Wheels service by encouraging cooks to ditch dried and frozen foods and prepare fresh, tasty meals instead. They kicked off a new service two years ago in Surrey and Yorkshire and recently were back on TV revisiting the volunteers and recipients.
In our opinion, actions such as this should be applauded since they not only bring communities closer together, but they ensure that the elderly are receiving at least one hot, nutritious meal per week. And as we know, good nutrition is particularly important for older people.
Healthy food = healthier people
Several studies have shown that the correct diet, suitable hydration and light exercise amongst the elderly can make them feel more alert, reduce the number of infections and colds, aid digestion and reduce the need for laxatives. If you’re in charge of planning meals for senior citizens, it’s worth bearing in mind that many are deficient in Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Iron and Calcium. Foods that have been proven to help combat these deficiencies include yellow and orange fruit and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, oily fish, pulses, red meat, liver, wholemeal bread, eggs and dairy products.
Make sure the food you prepare and share is safe
Not only do you need to ensure that you are providing a healthy balanced diet, you need to be sure that the food you’re providing has been prepared safely. With the exception of the local pub chef, who cooked meals for the Golcar (Huddersfield) Meals on Wheels service, all other meals were cooked and delivered by volunteers – some almost as old as those they were delivering to!
Whether you’re being paid to provide a service or you’re a volunteer, if what you do involves handling or preparing food and serving it to the public, you need to make sure that you have undergone basic food safety and hygiene training.
Basic food safety training is essential
Earlier this year we provided Level 2 Food Safety training to members of South Parade Baptist Church in Leeds. They run regular retired persons’ lunches, drop-in evenings for homeless men and women, student lunches and also provide catering for under-fives. It was therefore essential to them that they knew how to avoid cross-contamination and were able to prepare and store food in line with industry guidelines.
In this instance, because there were a number of volunteers and some were elderly, VWA provided training in-house. However, we also offer the same Level 2 course and a Level 3 Food Safety course online, which means that everyone can learn at their own pace – this flexibility is particularly useful if, like the Meals on Wheels teams we saw on TV, you have a full-time job.
On completion of the online Level 2 Food Safety course, you will have an understanding of a wide range of key food safety issues, including the three main types of food safety hazard – physical, chemical and microbiological, their sources and methods of control. Plus there is the added bonus that if you decide to take up catering full-time, you will already have the basic food safety qualification.