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Waste less food, save more $$$

A common reaction to the rising inflation and interest rates is to cut spending. However in Aged Care, where our Residents wellbeing and nutrition is critical, this isn’t a viable option. But there’s another way to reduce spend – reduce your waste!


Did you know, Australia wastes 7.6 million tonnes of food each year. Of this 7.6 million tonnes, 70% is perfectly edible! That’s 5.3 million tonnes of good quality, fresh food heading straight for the bin. This is pretty appalling when there are so many in the world that do not have adequate access to fresh food. Food waste occurs at all levels of the food supply and consumption chain. However, there are many strategies we can incorporate at the food service and household levels to help do our part in reducing food waste. Let’s say “No!” to food waste.


Food Waste Audit within Aged Care for residents

How much food is wasted in Aged Care?

A 2020 study completed in NSW found that an average of 3.5kg of food is wasted per resident in aged care, each week. That equates to over 180kg of food per resident, per year! Dietitians can assist Aged Care homes to improve waste management processes by reviewing and reducing the waste generated.


For example, by:

  • Ensuring good food stock storage, handling and management.

  • Ensuring food stock is not over-purchased, meaning that food will not have to be thrown away.

  • Improving knowledge on how to re-purpose food leftovers or using up off-cuts of foods.

  • Reducing the use of pre-portioned foods.


Food and Plate Waste Audits in Aged Care

What is a food waste audit?

Food Waste audits focus on the wastage of food used and prepared by the kitchen. This looks at reducing food waste in all aspects of food preparation.


For example, a Food Waste audit may look at:

  • The use of off-cuts of vegetables and meats, rather than throwing these away.

  • The food that is prepared and not served, due to preparing an excess amount.

  • Foods that are spoiled prior to being able to be served – eg. Cream going off before it has been used.

  • The use of pre-portioned foods, such as single serve ice cream cups.


Dietitians can complete a Food Waste audit to help provide Aged Care homes with practical strategies to reduce food waste in the kitchen. For example, providing recommendations on how to use off cuts of fresh produce in new meals, or safely re-purposing leftovers to create a new dish.


What is a Plate Waste Audit?

Plate Waste audits look more specifically at the food served to residents that remains uneaten during mealtimes. Plate Waste audits can identify a range of issues that may lead to trends in plate waste.


For example, plate waste audits may assist in identifying:

  • Inappropriate portion sizes.

  • Repetitive menu choices increasing flavour fatigue of specific items, or limited menu choices.

  • Service issues, such as long service times resulting in cold meals.

  • Interrupted mealtimes, such as medication rounds or other distractions.


Plate Waste audits assist Aged Care homes in identifying the cause of excessive plate waste, and provide recommendations on how to reduce this. Plate Waste audits may also assist in identifying potential nutrient deficiencies across the home, in instances where a trend in Plate Waste is identified. For example, if it is found that residents are often leaving behind a large portion of the protein that is served, the Plate Waste audit will assist in identifying the cause of this. If there is a high amount of waste for a specific food group, consequent nutrient deficiencies are likely. A reduction in plate waste will likely see an increase in residents’ nutritional status.


Food and plate waste audits by a Dietitian

Why is it important to conduct food and plate waste audits in aged care?

Food and Plate Waste audits assist aged care homes in identifying key areas of food wastage. Dietitians completing the Food and Plate Waste audit will provide ideas on how to reduce this waste, resulting in:

  • Reduced costs associated with the purchasing and preparation of foods.

  • Improved sustainability.

  • Improved food service.

  • Ability to identify gaps in nutrients being provided to residents by identifying trends in food waste.


What to expect during a food and plate waste audit?

It is recommended that all Aged Care homes participate in regular Food and Plate Waste audits completed by a qualified Accredited Practising Dietitian, like us!


To effectively complete a Food and Plate Waste audit, the Dietitian will require:

  • A list of resident names.

  • The meal size each resident receives.

  • An example meal, displaying the plating and standard meal sizes for small, medium and large meals.

  • A space to weigh meals.

  • Communication with staff, as staff will be required to provide the Dietitian with food waste at mealtimes.


A complete Plate Waste audit may take a number of days, depending on the size of the home, the number of residents/units being assessed, as well as the number of meals and mid meals being evaluated. It can be expected that a Plate Waste audit may take approximately 3-5 days onsite.


The Dietitian completing the Food and Plate Waste audit will require some time to discuss their findings with the staff at your home, as well as provide recommendations and feedback.


Reduce waste and food costs

OSCAR Care Group recommends that all Aged Care homes participate in a Food and Plate Waste audit to identify trends in food waste. This will assist in reducing the food waste at your home, reducing overall food costs and improving residents’ nutritional intake. If you have any questions or would like to discuss Food and Plate Waste audits further, please reach out to your OSCAR Care Group Dietitian for support. We have Dietitians all around Australia who can conduct a Food and Plate Waste audit.


For a quote, please email Dietitian@oscarcaregroup.com.au with details about your Aged Care home.


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