It’s lunch time at The Palms Lifecare Hospital and Rest Home and there’s a palpable sense of excitement in the dining room. The room is filled with conversation peppered with laughter and the gentle clinking of utensils eagerly fiddled with by residents who keenly eye the door leading to the kitchen area.
Situated in Pukekohe, The Palms prides itself on its seasonal menu offering – an ever-changing showcase of bright new colours and fresh new flavour possibilities. Amongst the crowd of diners sit 15 residents who require texture-modified foods that must be served smooth, moist and lump free. As service commences, the chatter in the dining room reaches fever pitch as the aroma of Thai Chicken Summer Salad fills the room. It is difficult to identify the texture-modified salad but this is what the team at the Palms have worked hard to achieve. They want every resident on a texture-modified diet to feel like the person sitting next to them eating the normal meal.
“At each service, every texture-modified plate comes back empty,” Shelley, The Palms’ Food Service Manager says. “The dining experience has literally transformed overnight since we started incorporating moulding techniques to serve pureed foods in shapes that resemble their original form.”
“Before we introduced moulded food, the key challenge we faced was getting residents to eat the pureed food. We use to ball everything. We’d use ballers and turn a green vegetable into a green ball. Residents didn’t know what they were eating. With the use of food moulds, residents can now see everything they’re eating – green beans, peas, pumpkin and carrots. There is also significantly less food waste now that the residents can see what they are eating.”
In The Palms’ central kitchen that services the sprawling aged care facility that incorporates a retirement village, hospital, rest home and day care, the two cooks are busily putting the final touches to tonight’s dinner service. Amongst the boxes of fresh produce, there’s a stack of multi-coloured food moulds and a can of Shape It, an instant food moulding powder.
“These are the essential kitchen tools for our texture-modified menu,” Shelley explains.
Shape It is a natural product that is gluten, soy, nut and dairy free. Shape It was developed by Flavour Creations to specifically address the need to enhance the dining experience by ensuring the food served looks as natural and appealing as possible without compromising flavour or aroma. Adding Shape It to pureed foods allows them to be moulded or shaped to a three-dimensional form that either resembles the original food, or is in a shape that adds interest and visual appeal to the plate, while maintaining a texture that is still suitable for people on a smooth puree diet.
Incorporating the use of food moulds and Shape It into the food service was “relatively easy” says Shelley.
“It’s about being organised and changing a little bit of your routine one step at a time. Our cooks mastered the green vegetables first. Different quantities of Shape It are required for different vegetables so we’d master peas before moving onto pumpkin.”
“Our cooks were hesitant in the beginning but their confidence grew quickly. Initially it sounded harder than it looked but once you give it a go, you realise how easy it is,” Shelley explains.
The kitchen can now prepare texture-modified sandwich platters at the same rate as a normal sandwich platter and traditional biscuits and cakes such as Ginger Nuts or Oreo cookies have replaced jelly and custard for Afternoon Tea.
“We’ve restored dignity to our residents.” Shelley says proudly. “We feel like we are renewing their love of food that they have missed out on for so long. You can see the joy on their faces; when they consume the first mouthful, the memory returns. It’s so satisfying to watch. It’s made a huge difference to everyone involved.”
When speaking with Shelly she was busy planning Christmas Afternoon tea for residents and families with all the trimmings – sandwiches, trifle, chocolates and the favourite Oreo cookie.
“Everything on the menu will be pureed but we doubt anyone will know the difference!”