Creating a Culturally Specific Menu

When we think about culture, food is often one of the first things that comes to mind. The role food plays and the experiences residents have with food goes well beyond providing nourishment alone.

The cultural diversity within residential aged care facilities (RACF) is growing. With such diversity it can be difficult to provide a menu and an eating environment which replicates the foods and atmosphere each resident is accustomed to.

Peter Thiveos, Hospitality Manager at Fronditha Care has given us some great insight on how they do it in their homes across Victoria and NSW.

“We are proud to offer a rich Mediterranean diet, where residents are served traditional dishes and sweets from all regions of Greece, the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean. Our homes are known for offering culturally appropriate care, where residents are cared for by staff that speak their mother tongue, are served food they recognise, can participate in activities that celebrate their traditions and culture and are visited regularly by volunteers from their community.”

Understanding the role of food in the cultural and religious practices of your residents is an important part of showing respect and responding to their needs. The role of food can be complex and can vary among individuals and communities. It’s important to avoid assumptions about a resident’s culture and beliefs and always ask the resident or their family.

Peter says “Our biggest food critics are our residents. We constantly consult with them & their families to see what they’re enjoying and what can be improved. We encourage & rely on their feedback. Our catering teams are present during meal times to assist in serving and cater for their needs.

In creating our seasonal menus, our staff survey the residents twice a year. Their families are sourced to provide further suggestions on dishes mum and/or dad enjoy. Residents are given a list of traditional meals to choose from and are encouraged to provide additional suggestions to make sure their next menu is created to their favourite choices.

Religion is an important aspect of the culture, therefore, during periods of lent and fasting, the menu allows for change, conforming to the religious guidelines, without limiting on the essential nutrients to the daily meals.”

Creating a culturally specific menu isn’t always easy and we are likely to come up with some challenges. “Fronditha Care has five nursing homes across two states; it has been a challenge to have consistency across the board. Importantly that includes the menu, with presentation and taste, the quality of produce and how the food is prepared, cooked and plated.”

Not surprisingly, texture modified meals are still a challenging aspect of aged care kitchens. “Making texture modified meals to look appealing to residents and appetising can be a difficult task for our chefs. The introduction of casings for texture modified meals to shape the food groups and ‘artistic’ plating by the catering team has improved the dining experience for those residents.”

What can facilities do to create a more culturally specific menu?

If your home is looking at becoming more cultural friendly, Peter’s advice below may assist you in getting started:

  • Always seek feedback, especially from your residents, and seek suggestions from family and staff that interact with residents daily.
  • Learn about the cultural heritage of your residents, their regional delicacies and religious traditions.
  • Endeavour to create nutritious and traditional dishes, with colour & presentation.
  • Hold a collection of photos of meals for residents to identify.
  • Research recipes and more importantly create a healthy, cooperative and consultative environment between your catering teams to communicate with each other and their residents. Keep your recipe folder up to date.

For more information and to view Fronditha Care’s recipe book, please visit the Fronditha Website

For more information, please contact Leading Nutrition on 1300 722 712 or via the contact form below.