Losing taste for Meals on Wheels

Drastic drop in demand since menu change

Drastic drop in demand since menu change

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DRASTIC DROP IN DEMAND: In September of last year, 1129 meals a month were being delivered to the elderly in Gisborne. In July of this year, that was down to 548.

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The demand for Meals on Wheels in Gisborne has more than halved since preparation of the meals was outsourced to an Auckland catering company.

After more than 40 years of the hot midday meals being prepared in the Gisborne Hospital kitchen for Meals on Wheels clients, meals are now cooked and assembled in Auckland before being snap frozen and trucked to Gisborne. The meals are reheated by the kitchen team at Gisborne Hospital then delivered hot by volunteers.

Half of all New Zealand hospitals went with the shift to the national catering company — Compass Group NZ — in November 2015. In September of last year, Meals on Wheels delivered 1129 meals a month to elderly people in the Gisborne area, as recorded by the volunteer committee who delivered them. That dropped to 548 meals a month in July 2016.

Feedback received was that it was a direct result of a drop in standard, nutrition of the frozen food and taste since Compass Group NZ took over.

The clients who cancelled their Meals on Wheels order have either switched to a local catering company, which is more expensive, resorted to making their own or moved into a rest home because they can’t prepare their own.

Hauora Tairawhiti was one of the district health boards that signed a 15-year contract with Compass Group NZ, with an estimated saving of $1.77m over the contracted period. Part of that figure was due to job losses at the Gisborne Hospital kitchen.

'Not meeting community needs'

Last week the volunteer committee who deliver meals sent a letter was to Hauora Tairawhiti board deputy chairwoman Barbara Clarke and Hauora Tairawhiti chief executive Jim Green.

The letter said many of the clients who still remained complained about the variety, temperature and type of the meals. Some ate only part of the meals or discarded them entirely.

“We believe that it is important that you, as elected board members with the responsibility to chair the various committees which impact on the ongoing care of our community, should be aware of these concerns,” the letter said.

“This new delivery of meals is not meeting our community needs, a situation clearly demonstrated by the significant drop in numbers receiving meals via the Meals on Wheels Service as well as the reduction in the numbers of volunteer drivers.”

The Meals on Wheels service has provided a hot daily meal from Monday to Friday to Gisborne’s elderly or disabled residents since the early 80s.

Health concerns with reheating

Age Concern chief executive Frances Toroa said she was concerned not only about the nutritional value of the new meals but that they had already been frozen and reheated. Often the people who paid for the meals did not want to eat them straight away. Ms Toroa said there were health concerns about reheating meals a second time.

Questions about the changes were sent to Hauora Tairawhiti, but because the new service is contracted to Compass Group NZ, Hauora Tairawhiti did not respond. Instead, Compass Group NZ national development and innovation manager Lauren Scott said it was recommended recipients ate their meal immediately or on the day of delivery.

“If they do not eat their meal immediately, the meal should be placed in the refrigerator until required, then reheated until piping hot. Detailed reheating instructions are provided to all Meals on Wheels recipients. Meals are prepared to a national standard as part of the new food service agreement.”

She confirmed the meals have been cooked and assembled fresh in a central kitchen, either in Tauranga or Auckland, since November last year.

“The meals are snap frozen prior to delivery. The food service contractor, Compass, uses this process to protect the taste, texture and nutrition of meals. The meals are reheated in a Gisborne Hospital kitchen oven and delivered.”

New menu was taste tested

Ms Scott said the new Meals on Wheels menu was tasted by a wide range of people, before and after they were introduced to recipients, including Meals on Wheels volunteers and Hauora Tairawhiti staff — nurses, rehabilitation staff and dietitians.

“Compass welcomes feedback and encourages anyone with a concern or issue to contact their team directly on their dedicated 0800 number (0800-720-000). Feedback can also be provided direct to Hauora Tairawhiti through our feedback line.”

Ms Scott said it was important to Compass, as it was to Hauora Tairawhiti and everyone else, that Meals on Wheels meals delivered all of the intended benefits, with food quality and nutrition being the key focus.

The demand for Meals on Wheels in Gisborne has more than halved since preparation of the meals was outsourced to an Auckland catering company.

After more than 40 years of the hot midday meals being prepared in the Gisborne Hospital kitchen for Meals on Wheels clients, meals are now cooked and assembled in Auckland before being snap frozen and trucked to Gisborne. The meals are reheated by the kitchen team at Gisborne Hospital then delivered hot by volunteers.

Half of all New Zealand hospitals went with the shift to the national catering company — Compass Group NZ — in November 2015. In September of last year, Meals on Wheels delivered 1129 meals a month to elderly people in the Gisborne area, as recorded by the volunteer committee who delivered them. That dropped to 548 meals a month in July 2016.

Feedback received was that it was a direct result of a drop in standard, nutrition of the frozen food and taste since Compass Group NZ took over.

The clients who cancelled their Meals on Wheels order have either switched to a local catering company, which is more expensive, resorted to making their own or moved into a rest home because they can’t prepare their own.

Hauora Tairawhiti was one of the district health boards that signed a 15-year contract with Compass Group NZ, with an estimated saving of $1.77m over the contracted period. Part of that figure was due to job losses at the Gisborne Hospital kitchen.

'Not meeting community needs'

Last week the volunteer committee who deliver meals sent a letter was to Hauora Tairawhiti board deputy chairwoman Barbara Clarke and Hauora Tairawhiti chief executive Jim Green.

The letter said many of the clients who still remained complained about the variety, temperature and type of the meals. Some ate only part of the meals or discarded them entirely.

“We believe that it is important that you, as elected board members with the responsibility to chair the various committees which impact on the ongoing care of our community, should be aware of these concerns,” the letter said.

“This new delivery of meals is not meeting our community needs, a situation clearly demonstrated by the significant drop in numbers receiving meals via the Meals on Wheels Service as well as the reduction in the numbers of volunteer drivers.”

The Meals on Wheels service has provided a hot daily meal from Monday to Friday to Gisborne’s elderly or disabled residents since the early 80s.

Health concerns with reheating

Age Concern chief executive Frances Toroa said she was concerned not only about the nutritional value of the new meals but that they had already been frozen and reheated. Often the people who paid for the meals did not want to eat them straight away. Ms Toroa said there were health concerns about reheating meals a second time.

Questions about the changes were sent to Hauora Tairawhiti, but because the new service is contracted to Compass Group NZ, Hauora Tairawhiti did not respond. Instead, Compass Group NZ national development and innovation manager Lauren Scott said it was recommended recipients ate their meal immediately or on the day of delivery.

“If they do not eat their meal immediately, the meal should be placed in the refrigerator until required, then reheated until piping hot. Detailed reheating instructions are provided to all Meals on Wheels recipients. Meals are prepared to a national standard as part of the new food service agreement.”

She confirmed the meals have been cooked and assembled fresh in a central kitchen, either in Tauranga or Auckland, since November last year.

“The meals are snap frozen prior to delivery. The food service contractor, Compass, uses this process to protect the taste, texture and nutrition of meals. The meals are reheated in a Gisborne Hospital kitchen oven and delivered.”

New menu was taste tested

Ms Scott said the new Meals on Wheels menu was tasted by a wide range of people, before and after they were introduced to recipients, including Meals on Wheels volunteers and Hauora Tairawhiti staff — nurses, rehabilitation staff and dietitians.

“Compass welcomes feedback and encourages anyone with a concern or issue to contact their team directly on their dedicated 0800 number (0800-720-000). Feedback can also be provided direct to Hauora Tairawhiti through our feedback line.”

Ms Scott said it was important to Compass, as it was to Hauora Tairawhiti and everyone else, that Meals on Wheels meals delivered all of the intended benefits, with food quality and nutrition being the key focus.

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Het Lirdder - 3 years ago
Information further to the Meals on Wheels debate. To quote MPI's Food Safety Regulations available on their website -
"Only food that has been cooked and then chilled straight away (cook-chill) (e.g. by following the Cooling hot food and freezing food procedure) may be reheated. Food that
has been hot-held and then chilled must, if it is safe and suitable for further use, be used cold; otherwise it should be thrown away - see Re-using food that has been for sale.
Food must not be reheated more than once before it is sold".
Do the recommendations in the above article contravene basic food safety recommendations from MPI?

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