For Immediate Release: Long-term care mealtime experience put first with local food initiative

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Long-term care mealtime experience put first with local food initiative

For Immediate Release

Greater Toronto Area, June 20, 2018 – With Ontario’s early summer growing season in full swing, local food mealtime engagement activities for long-term care developed and tested as part of a Serving Up Local Training project are now released. Serving Up Local VideoThe Serving Up Local for Long-Term Care Toolkit and animated video are a result of $20,000 in project funding awarded to the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance (GHFFA) by the Greenbelt Fund’s Local Food Investment Fund.

“The Serving Up Local Training project drills down to the heart of local food purchasing in long-term care – the residents and their lived experiences,” shares Stephanie Crocker, GHFFA Stakeholder Engagement Strategist. “The project provides learning opportunities for staff that work directly with residents at meal time about new local food options in the homes and ways to communicate these options to residents. Residents can be empowered with the knowledge to be able to choose local foods when available on the menu contribute to a positive mealtime experience.”

“The Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance’s innovative local food training is an important initiative to increase awareness of local food options in long-term care facilities,” says Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Fund. “We’re very pleased to have supported this project and I am confident that this project will serve as a model to other public sector institutions in the future.”

The food literacy project builds on the Serving Up Local initiative that increased local food procurement in municipally-run long-term care (LTC) homes in three Golden Horseshoe municipalities by a combined 23% in 2017. The GHFFA partnership with Durham and Halton regions, and the City of Hamilton, far surpassed their project goal of increasing local food purchases by 5% and saw a collective increase in offerings of fresh fruits and vegetables to residents by 124%, as well as pioneering local food language in procurement documents for food products in long-term care.

Communication pieces, case studies, and a “Manual for Increasing Local Foods in Long-Term Care” have now been published on the website.

As part of the Serving Up Local project, the GHFFA administered a survey to 103 residents and their family members at six of the homes taking part in Serving Up Local, to determine if a “local/Ontario” label increased their interest in, and improved their perception of, the food served, thereby contributing to a positive mealtime experience for residents: 79% of long-term care residents and their family members were interested to know if food was sourced locally; 71% felt better about the food served when they knew it was sourced locally from Ontario; and in general, local food elicited many positive memories of farming, food growing and preserving, and fresh, delicious foods.

In order to respond to these sentiments from residents, the GHFFA and Halton Region developed the Serving Up Local Training initiative. This project piloted local food literacy at mealtimes in long-term care in a region where many long-term care residents have a farming background. Staff here also showed outstanding commitment to local food by increasing Ontario food purchases by 43.5% in 2017.

On March 28, 2018, 50 staff at Allendale long-term care were trained on local food options on resident menus and shared their expertise as the frontline at mealtime to best communicate these options to residents and engage in greater mealtime conversation using local foods. A Local Food Fair offered in partnership with Gordon Food Services gave all staff the opportunity to taste new and existing local food menu options. Vendors showcased eggs, cheese, apples, salads, pastas, cold cuts and meat alternatives – all primarily made with Ontario ingredients.

Throughout the month of April, staff at Allendale brought their new local food knowledge and inspiration to residents in the dining rooms by highlighting local ingredients on the menu that day and utilizing printed local food conversation cards. The local food education pieces sparked greater conversation amongst residents and between staff and residents in the dining rooms. Surveying revealed an increase in awareness of local food options on the menu among both staff and residents and that more conversation is happening around local food – all steps on the path to greater social connection.

Ultimately, this work has potential implications for resident health and well-being. Canadian research by the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and the Agri-food for Healthy Aging (A-HA) program demonstrates that poor food intake is considered the primary cause of LTC malnutrition, yet it is preventable. The research identified key determinants that could contribute to increased food intake, a primary indicator being the residents’ perception of the “quality” of their meals. Food is an important element of physical, emotional and psychological health in this vulnerable population. If showcasing local foods to LTC residents results in greater engagement in food, then local food may be a tool to help address malnutrition and dehydration rates in long-term care homes.

Healthcare facilities looking to boost their mealtime engagement and learn more about putting local on the menu in long-term care can visit for the tools and resources developed as part of the Serving Up Local Training project.


About Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance and Serving Up Local
Serving Up Local is a partnership between Durham and Halton Regions, the City of Hamilton and the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance (GHFFA), to increase the amount of local foods offered in their facilities with a special focus on long-term care homes. We use the purchasing power of public institutions to strengthen Ontario’s agricultural sector and appeal to residents seeking local food offerings. The Serving Up Local Training Initiative is a partnership with Halton Region to bring greater local food literacy to long-term care frontline mealtime staff and to enhance the dining experience for residents. Both projects are made possible with financial support from the Government of Ontario, in partnership with the Greenbelt Fund.

The GHFFA is a partnership between the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, the Friends of the Greenbelt, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Niagara and Durham Colleges, the Vineland Innovation Centre, the Holland Marsh Growers and the Regional Municipalities and Federations of Agriculture in Niagara, Peel, Halton, York, and Durham, and the Cities of Hamilton and Toronto. The collaboration works for an integrated and coordinated approach to food and farming viability in the area to ensure that the Golden Horseshoe retains, enhances and expands its role as a leading food and farming cluster.

About Halton Region Services for Seniors
Halton Region helps senior citizens live with independence, vitality and dignity through adult day programs, supportive housing programs and long-term care services. Our long-term care homes provide 24-hour nursing and medical care for residents. Life enrichment, nutrition, restorative care and physiotherapy services are also provided. The Region owns and operates three homes: Creekway Village in Burlington, Allendale in Milton and Post Inn Village in Oakville.

About the Greenbelt Fund
The Greenbelt Fund changes the way we eat food in Ontario. The Fund’s innovative investments get more local food onto the plates of Ontarians. We work with businesses, institutions and NGOs to make Ontario’s farmers the first choice for consumers. The Fund’s work has generated a 13-fold return on our investments, permanently changed the food value chain and improved local food awareness and education around the province. As a not-for-profit, the Greenbelt Fund is supported by public and private sources.

Janet Horner
Executive Director
Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance