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Home News and media centre News We’ll show you what’s possible: Maggie Beer

We’ll show you what’s possible: Maggie Beer

Maggie Beer has been a passionate voice for better food and nutrition in residential aged care for almost a decade.

‘Of course, there is a long way to go,’ she says.

Ahead of our upcoming webinar – Food, glorious food: and what to do if it’s not – Maggie spoke to us about the changes she wants to make.

‘My hope is that with training and knowledge we can move from a medical model to a well-being model.’

You launched the Maggie Beer Foundation almost 10 years ago. What are the achievements you are most proud of?

Our 2-day Masterclasses. Since 2014, we’ve been bringing groups of 30 cooks and chefs together around the country to share food knowledge and to find solutions to the difficulties they face.

I’m also proud of being one of the loud voices about good food being the most immediate path to well-being in aged care. And completing the first 11 modules of specialised online training for cooks and chefs with the professional assistance of Altura Learning.

What has been the biggest obstacle?

Time, resources and the challenges of a very complex arena that has been particularly affected by the COVID pandemic.

The lack of respect for people working very hard in the sector under difficult conditions.

What are the changes you have observed during that time?

The Federal Government making Aged Care a priority as a result of the Royal Commission.

Of course, there is a long way to go. My hope is that with training and knowledge we can move from a medical model to a well-being model.

In October, the Australian Government gave the foundation $5 million to help raise the standard of food in the aged care sector. How will you do that?

By working face-to-face with cooks and chefs to give them the skills they need to cook food that gives pleasure along with the goodness.

The programme we are in these final stages of confirming has multiple components, including:

  • Online learning modules: The Foundation has already developed 11 modules for chefs, cooks and community members and the government has made these all available free of charge. Six more will be developed.
  • Community of Practice: An existing platform for chefs and cooks to share experiences, knowledge, ask questions and seek support from the Foundation and peers.
  • State and Territory Hubs: Two-day training events for chefs and cooks to be delivered nationally at a mix of metropolitan, regional and rural locations.
  • Trainer Mentor Program: An intensive 12-month training program for chefs and cooks delivered by Chef Trainers and Mentors in aged care homes, tailoring the program to the needs and challenges of each home.

Is $5 million enough to make a difference?

When the programme is confirmed, it will allow us to show what is possible. Be assured that we will wring every cent out of $5 million funding. The number and quality of candidates applying for this cooking training position shows me there is a real appetite for career growth opportunity.

What is your response to the criticism from dietitians that the money could have been better spent, given the statistics around malnourishment?

The consequences of poor nutrition for older people are significant – and often irreversible.  This is an urgent issue that requires multiple strategies.

The government has announced additional money for dieticians, particularly to develop specific guidelines for older people.

And we will engage dieticians, oral health practitioners and speech pathologists in the development of our training.

But if the cook or chef doesn’t have the knowledge, the skill, the drive from being proud of what they are cooking, then the food on the plate will give none of the nourishment required.

Any final thoughts?

Engaging with residents and their families about the food served is paramount!

This is a huge journey and there are many people and organisations committed to making a difference. We all have a responsibility to bring about change and we can. This will happen by working collaboratively.