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Gillian McGinty

CEO of Boandik Lodge

Gillian McGinty has been with Boandik Lodge for 18 years, 12 of them as the CEO. Boandik is in Mt Gambier in South Australia with 4 aged care facilities across 3 sites as well as a number of community clients - non-residents who live at home and come daily to the facility for activities and meals.

In April 2017 Gillian instigated a resident-led menu planning initiative. She started by forming a small group called the Food Appreciation Group.

The purpose of the group is to find out what foods the residents really want to see on the menu and to work out how these can be logistically incorporated into bulk produced food. 

The group meets once a month. They discuss feedback from other residents, as well as hear about new food ideas. The group also cooks new dishes, which they can then recommend to others in their facility as a new option for the menu.

The group is made up of representative residents from each facility, a community client, 3 staff cooks, a personal care assistant from the dementia unit, as well as Gillian herself.

Having an advocate for the dementia residents is very important because the more information about what they like, the more the menu can be tailored to make sure they are meeting optimal nutritional intake, which is essential for this group.

Generally the facility staff will start each meeting with a discussion about the different foods they have eaten recently. The group then decides if there are any dishes they would like to try. The cooks in the group can then help to assess the potential for adding it to the menu and what challenges might need to be overcome.

For example, a popular trial dish was San choy bau - which was a great idea as finger food is always needed, and is popular with the elderly. However the challenge was wrapping it and keeping it in the lettuce leaves. It was a hit with the residents but from a practical point of view, it has yet to be refined before it makes it onto the menu. 

A dietician works with the group through the process to ensure nutritional requirements are always met.

Another aspect of the process is working out how to modify the dish for residents with dysphasia and other eating challenges associated with age. The dish has to work as a puree and a mold if it is to be fully incorporated into the menu.

Gillian says some of the feedback is surprising. An early request they had from the residents was for fresh herbs to be used - particularly in egg dishes. One of their community clients has since created a huge herb garden in her back yard and now supplies the kitchens with fresh herbs.

The group has also dispelled some food clichés in Aged Care - “they won’t eat risotto” is something we’ve always thought but The Food Appreciation Group asked for chicken risotto and it is now one of the most popular dished on the menu.

In terms of seasonal food, Gillian says they found the residents love salads no matter what season. When the group first started they asked for a BBQ with not only sausages, which is what we would normally serve but with steak and hamburger patties as well.

“We served a potato salad with egg and bacon and that was the biggest hit. When potato salad appears on the menu now, it is always that potato salad with the egg and bacon in it.”

But it’s not only the main meal the group look at - they also look at the sides that are served at the same time. 

It may seem like micro-planning but knowing that roast potatoes, and roast pumpkin are high on everyone’s list but baked carrots are disliked by just about everyone saves on wasted food, and increases the chances of everyone eating enough food to keep them healthy.

And a few dishes have been banished from the menu. A medley of steamed vegetables used to be included quite regularly but the majority of residents asked that it be removed for good! 

The latest dishes on the menus due to the planning group are Scotch Eggs, Frittata and the hugely popular Jam Roly Poly.

Gillian sees that resident-led menu planning will increase engagement with food and help residents stay healthy as well as making sure their nutritional needs are met. She sees the initiative as a success and is keen to continue to develop the program further in the next 12 months.

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