Menu planning proves to be a tricky balancing act of many factors including nutrition, dietary needs, budgets and more.

Silver Group Purchasing and Extendicare, are leaders in providing care for long term care residents. As such, SGP understands the importance of careful menu planning, the knowledge and skill that’s required to build an outstanding menu, as well as the investment in time it takes to execute a menu.

Foodbuy met with Zahra C, National Menu Planning Consultant at SGP who took us through her process to develop SGP’s bi-annual menu and how Foodbuy ensures the supply chain is aligned, so operators can consistently deliver satisfying resident meals.

Menu planning is an essential component of healthcare facilities as it ensures that the residents’ nutritional needs are met while adhering to budgetary limitations. It is a complex process that requires careful consideration of a variety of factors, including taste preferences, dietary restrictions, and supply chain logistics. The following are some of the main considerations that go into the SGP menu releases.

Nutritional requirements

SGP’s ultimate goal is to provide a menu that meets the nutrient requirements for the resident population, based on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) and nutrient targets. The gold standard for determining this is a nutrient analysis based on the actual menu items, production processes, and standard portion sizes served. “At SGP, we use Synergy to conduct a full nutrient analysis for all menus and diet types to ensure Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) and nutrient targets have been met.” states Zahra.

The newest release of Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) has also had an impact on how menus and meals are built. The most significant changes impacting menu planning in Long Term Care (LTC) being:

  • Elimination of serving sizes and number of servings, replaced by the plate proportion method
  • Removal of juice as a fruit or vegetable
  • Incorporation of the milk and alternatives food group into the protein foods category
  • Water is now the beverage of choice

The SGP menus carefully follow the guidelines from the 2019 Canada’s Food Guide.

Budgetary limitations

Most Long Term Care facilities must work within provincial funding guidelines. In some cases, this can create challenges for operators to deliver a varied menu while balancing the need for high-quality, nutritious meals and keeping costs within budget. SGP works with Foodbuy to identify cost-saving products that can be included in the menu. Foodbuy negotiates the best prices for menu items on your behalf, by leveraging their unmatched purchasing power.

Dietary restrictions

Allergies, intolerances and medical conditions such as diabetes and dysphagia are common issues in a long term care setting. Zahra works diligently on developing menus that allow all residents to have access to the same food as their peers, while still managing their medical conditions. By offering the same menu options as the residents’ peers, it cultivates a more positive and inclusive dining experience for all residents. The additional benefit of providing a consistent menu for all types of dietary restrictions is that it streamlines operations from procurement and storage through to kitchen prep, saving you time, labour and money.

In addition to medical restrictions menus are developed to address common eating related barriers such as; poor oral health, low appetite, early satiety, fatigue, taste preferences, and sensory changes in the resident. Dehydration, malnutrition, dysphagia, and its associated risks can be addressed through the menus by using the dietary reference intake as a primary target for planning. Consideration of nutrient dense foods, sufficient fibre, quality protein and choice all go into the development of the menu.

Equipment Considerations

The menu plays a crucial role in guiding procurement decisions, as it determines the type of equipment operators will need for menu implementation. Long term care homes have invested hundreds and thousands of dollars in equipment therefore, it’s an important topic of discussion when SGP develops menus. SGP also emphasizes the need for homes to have the necessary equipment capabilities to accommodate menu selections. It’s an important consideration that ensures your back of house operations run smoothly.

Taste preferences

The goal is to develop menus that feel like an extension of a resident’s home. SGP menus are appropriate for establishments with longer stay residents such as retirement homes and long term care facilities, but can also be used in complex continuing care and post-acute care rehabilitation settings as well.

In many cultures, food is intertwined with health and healing. For residents, part of the enjoyment of eating is choosing foods that reflect their own culture and preferences. “To ensure resident satisfaction, we carefully take into consideration the resident feedback we’ve received to thoughtfully integrate residents’ cultural, religious, local and personal preferences.” states Zahra. Operators are encouraged to involve their residents’ in the menu approval and implementation process so that their unique preferences are considered.

New to fall 2023, SGP has launched two menu options geared specifically to meet the needs of retirement residences.  One option is an a-la-carte offering, which was designed to meet residents’ growing desire for more choice.

Supply chain logistics

The SGP Menu development process strategically involves Foodbuy, North America’s largest foodservice group purchasing organization. By bringing together the purchasing volume of all Foodbuy members, SKUs that are needed to execute this menu are listed at distributors across the country, so you have uninterrupted access to the products you need. Prices are also negotiated on your behalf. Foodbuy is your strategic partner for food procurement strategies that optimize cost-efficiency without compromising quality.

Through your membership with SGP and Foodbuy, you have access to a multifaceted menu that has been created with careful consideration of residents’ nutritional needs, dietary restrictions, taste preferences, budgetary constraints, and supply chain logistics. You can feel confident that these menu releases deliver nutritious and delicious meals that enhance the overall well-being and satisfaction of residents, while strictly adhering to provincial regulations and budgetary constraints.

Read the latest Foodbuy Healthcare Guide to access industry insights and learn about supplier products and services.

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