apetito sets the table for change

A new report jointly compiled by apetito and Care England records care homes’ concerns about rising food costs and labour shortages

A newly launched research report, compiled by apetito in collaboration with Care England, reveals that nine out of 10 care homes surveyed report that their catering costs have been increasing month on month since the cost-of-living crisis first hit in 2022, while more than three quarters of those that cook meals from scratch stated that they are struggling with labour shortages and see no sign of this abating. Further, three out of four care homes worry about the level of their food waste and its associated costs.

Based on a qualitative research project of some 500 care homes conducted throughout 2023, the report finds an industry-wide concern about the fast-rising inflation of food ingredients and the mealtime associated labour costs – with current labour shortages only exacerbating financial pressures.

Three-quarters of homes also voice deep concern over the levels of food waste seen at mealtimes and the subsequent financial repercussions, as they are finding it difficult to juggle resident numbers against unpredictable events and schedules.

The research findings raise concerns for the sector and suggest that the economic pressures facing homes may lead to inevitable compromises in residents' mealtimes and their essential nutritional intake.

The "Nourishing Lives: A New Era of Dining in Care Homes" report aims to tackle these pressing concerns by bringing together best practices and real-world insights. The report provides impactful solutions aimed at reducing kitchen costs for care homes, whilst maintaining quality and nutrition standards for residents.

Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care in England, comments:

“Our partnership with apetito has allowed us to gain a much better grasp of the challenges facing care providers up and down the country. Nutrition is a key pillar in providing high-quality care. Issues associated with labour shortages and inflationary increases place care providers in an increasingly challenging position.

By bringing light to these challenges and elevating good practice, our research seeks to drive sector improvement and make a real difference to those receiving and delivering care.”

Furthermore, the findings also provide valuable insights into other areas, such as the growing demand for specialist nutrition and personalised dietary solutions, the empowerment of staff through quality training and the importance of the holistic dining experience – with 80% of homes saying mealtimes are the most important part of a resident’s day.  Yet worryingly, 19% of care homes asked, said that they find it challenging to provide residents with a balanced diet across wide-ranging resident needs. 

Every care home surveyed confirmed they had between 3% and 19% of residents where they are catering for specialist dietary needs. Half of those residents are living with dexterity or coordination difficulties, thus creating further complexities at mealtimes.

Richard Woodward, general manager for care homes at apetito, adds: “We believe that every meal is an opportunity to enrich lives. Partnering with Care England has allowed us to dive into the challenges and triumphs of dining in care homes, bringing to the forefront solutions that cater to the diverse needs of residents.

“It is hardly a surprise that homes catering for extensive nutritional diversity find this a challenge and we hope this report will help signpost new thinking and creative solutions. This collaboration is more than research; it’s a commitment to setting new standards for care home dining.”

The collaborative study derives from a shared vision to enhance the mealtime experience for both residents and caregivers, driving a future of elevated standards and catering excellence in the care sector.

Register for free to gain access to the Report here: https://apetito.link/CE-Research-24

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