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Care homes face food supply challenge

The challenges threatening the continuity of food supplies for care homes and their residents have been brought into sharp focus during the pandemic and even before then. Here, Atiyya Tailor of Fuel Your Preparation freeze-dried food looks at the issues and some of the options going forward.

Food, and the quality and timeliness of it, plays a crucial part in making sure a care home runs smoothly for all, with residents’ health and wellbeing ultimately being the number one priority.

Disruptions to vulnerable people can have a pronounced effect and any change to routines can cause a severe reaction including stress.

Pressure on food supplies such as we saw at the start of lockdown - and could see again in January as a result of Brexit - means it is vital for all care home managers to have food reserves planned well in advance.

Fuel Your Preparation, a trading company of European Freeze Dry and working in partnership with Care England, offers advice and guidance to care home managers, offering freeze-dried food and ingredients throughout the UK and Europe with a shelf life of 25 years for tinned food and seven years in pouches from its factories in Preston, UK and Kirke Hyllinge, Denmark.

Many care homes are small operations that do not have sophisticated kitchens or storage. Indeed, they often operate independently without the safety net of a larger company to help them through with the benefits of larger-scale procurement strategies, technology and management expertise.
While council-run homes have central procurement systems, many of the small private independent homes rely on individual managers or their staff to put things into place. Years of reducing fees mean that they have little slack in their systems, and in many cases they have relied on supermarket deliveries.
Supermarkets as a direct source have proven to be fragile when consumers are affected, subject to panic buying and affected by other issues out of their control including transport and availability of goods. The fragility of this approach is even more visible during a crisis.

Be prepared for Brexit effect on food supplies
Global transport systems are increasingly under severe strain for various reasons including the pandemic but also because of unpredictable highs and lows in demand.
Hauliers, container transport and fluctuations in fuel prices can affect cross-border transport efficiencies, with Brexit another issue to consider for the UK where overseas goods may be part of the solution.

For care operators, it is important to consider food supplies directly through quality manufacturers or distributors which reduce waste, reduce labour costs and at the same time offer nutritional value, so important for older people.

To satisfy these requirements, options going forward include looking at different types of food such as freeze-dried food which can be supplied direct from the manufacturer - with a shelf life of up to 25 years. This food retains the nutritional value of the day it was made, while staying tasty, stable, and nutritious at room temperature for an extended period of time, making it ideal when planning for supply chain disruptions, and helping to support business continuity.
The meal range from Fuel Your Preparation in tins and pouch formats includes chicken tikka with rice, pasta bolognese, beef stew, spicy pasta Arrabiata, five bean cassoulet, chocolate mousse and rice pudding. Ingredients and staple items come in tins and include diced chicken and minced beef.

Meeting challenges ahead, the products also come in kit form as ingredients such as green beans, beef mince, and white rice and offer organisations freeze-dried breakfasts, desserts and main meals including vegetarian options depending on needs.

Fuel Your Preparation freeze-dried foods contain carbohydrates and protein are easy to prepare by adding water. Freeze-dried ingredients are produced by removing the water from the original product and retaining the nutrition and taste. The full range of Fuel Your Preparation products can be found at the website.