Hip hip purée - lookalike meals go to NHS patients


Hospital food can appear unappetising at its best. But for those with dysphagia - a difficulty in swallowing - the presentation of puréed food is dispiritingly akin to "being delivered blobs on a plate".

Those are the words of Richard Munns, who has responsibility for Jewish Care's catering operation, producing three million plates of food annually.

When the charity moved its catering services in-house a few years ago, it committed to developing kosher foods for those with specialist dietary needs.

As around 10 per cent of its 650 residents have dysphagia, its chefs took up the challenge of producing puréed meals which were not only tasty and nutritious but visually appealing in that they resembled the actual foods. Beef, chicken, fish and vegetarian main courses and an impressive array of desserts have gradually been produced and around 300 such meals are enjoyed daily by Jewish Care residents and day centre users. For Pesach, there were even lookalike hard boiled eggs and matzah sheets.

Now following discussions with the Hospital Kosher Meals Service and NHS food supplier Medirest, the service is being rolled out to Jewish patients in hospitals within the M25 and the partnership was formally launched with a tasting session at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield on Monday.

Forkfuls of the hot meals were tried approvingly, but in a largely Jewish gathering, the puréed cheesecake attracted the greatest interest (it was really good). Among those tucking in was Jewish Care chief executive Simon Morris, who noted that as "food is central to Jewish life, this is a way of ensuring that everyone can participate in it".

Hospital Kosher Meals Service chair Michael Freedman said that "in our terms, the importance is huge because these meals are going to the most vulnerable people".

Medirest dietitian Maxine Cartz said that although the main meals came in at under 500 calories, malnutrition was often a greater concern with dysphagia sufferers and "the really nice presentation" would encourage consumption. "Food not eaten has no nutritional value," she pointed out.

Initially, 500 of the meals will be delivered to hospitals each month, providing "a small subsidy" that will be ploughed back into Jewish Care services.

Mr Munns would welcome interest from other care providers and there is a possibility of extending the geographical spread. Two Southend Hospital representatives at the launch were highly enthusiastic about the food.

Meanwhile, new puréed facsimile products are being worked on in the charity's kitchens.

"We've not quite cracked the bagel," he admitted, but the spaghetti bolognese was coming along nicely.

Some dishes looked so tempting that clients without swallowing issues asked for them. "We try to nicely dissuade them," Mr Munns explained.

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