Long-Term Care Mealtime Engagement
In order to deepen the work of the Serving Up Local project and respond to LTC residents’ interest in local food, GHFFA and Halton Region developed the Serving Up Local Training initiative. This project piloted local food literacy at mealtimes and enhanced the person-centered approach during meals served in long-term care by using the topic of local food.
Local food as an engagement tool in long-term care
In 2017, as part of the Serving Up Local project, the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance administered a survey to 103 residents and their family members at six long-term care homes in southern Ontario to determine if a “local/Ontario” label increased their interest in, and improved their perception of, food served. 79% were interested to know if food was sourced locally and 71% felt better about the food served when they knew it was sourced locally/from Ontario. This increased perception of quality was of interest in light of recent Canadian research by the Schlegel University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and the Agri-food for Healthy Aging (A-HA) program. Their Making the Most of Mealtimes (M3) research found that a primary factor that contributed to increased food intake was the residents’ perception of the “quality” of their meals. M3 results also showed that residents who ate more calories and protein were more likely to have received person-centered care at mealtimes (i.e. their preferences, needs and values were respected). LTC staff observations during the Serving Up Local project showed that many residents’ direct experience or positive associations with farming, or food growing.
If long-term care staff communicating local food options, while drawing on residents’ personal histories results in greater interest in food, then local food may be a tool to help address malnutrition and dehydration rates in long-term care homes.
Mealtime Engagement Toolkit
This toolkit is a collection of resources resulting from the Serving Up Local Training pilot project that took place at Allendale Long-Term Care Home in Halton Region from December 2017 to May 2018. The project tested learning opportunities with staff who work directly with residents at mealtime about new local food options in the homes and effective ways to communicate these options to residents. To enhance the training, local food tools were developed for use by life enrichment programs outside of mealtimes to reinforce the positive messages of local and familiar foods.
Mealtime Engagement Animated Video
Residents and their family members show great interest in supporting local farmers. Furthermore, many LTC residents have personal histories with positive associations to farming, or food growing, making local food a valuable topic to increase meaningful engagement at mealtimes. Some resident reflections are here. Please feel free to share!