Nutrition students help to transform hospital menus

17th May 2018

Patients and staff at Poole’s Alderney Hospital are now tucking into tasty, nutritious meals full of locally-sourced ingredients thanks to a joint initiative between hospital staff and students at Bournemouth University.

Scholars studying their BSc (Hons) in nutrition undertook 20-day placements at the Dorset HealthCare-run hospital, interviewing staff and patients on the wards about their food likes and dislikes.

They then used state-of-the-art nutritional analysis computer software to deliver 250 fresh new dishes on two-week rotating seasonal menus, with a focus on increased fibre and protein and reduced salt and fat, depending on the patient’s need.

The menus have taken around 18 months to produce, with meals ranging from spicy fish stew to Mediterranean vegetable macaroni, to coconut milk rice pudding with mango compote.

Alderney Hospital provides 48 beds for older people who need physical rehabilitation, as well as in-patient units for those with mental health needs including dementia, memory assessment and stroke services.

The Catering Team feeds more than 100 patients, and more than 80 staff and visitors each day.

The original food menus had been in place at the hospital for fifteen years, operating on a three-week rolling cycle all year round and desperately needed revamping.

Lynne Allner, Head of Catering at Alderney, said: “We are delighted with the new menus and so pleased that we could work jointly with nutrition students on this project. They have been fantastic and considered every single detail to ensure our patients are getting the healthiest meals specific to their individual needs.

“This is a great example of joint working, and to be able to offer so many different meal choices is a real achievement. We have had so much positive feedback from both staff and patients, which is really encouraging.

“I would also like to praise the hard work of my catering team. They worked closely with the students to make the dishes, carrying out regular tasting sessions, providing their expertise and educating them along the way – without their hard work the project wouldn’t have been such a success.”

Being able to offer locally-sourced, fresh produce has been at the forefront of the initiative, and the Trust has forged a strong link with Wimborne-based fishmongers M&J Seafoods.

Not only will they provide the hospital with freshly caught fish on demand, but will also remove all fish bones, ensuring each meal served is safe and can be eaten with minimal effort.

Nutrition student Jennifer Hardie said: “It was a really interesting project and I have learned so much. It was quite challenging having to consider everything from portion sizes to measuring things like the levels of protein and carbohydrate in every meal, but we have managed to come up with some great menus that offer real variety.”

Joanne Holmes, lecturer in nutrition at Bournemouth University, added: “This is an excellent example of our students working collaboratively with a local organisation to develop their professional skills and add value to the local community.

“This is the first time anywhere in the south that nutrition students have joined forces with catering staff at a community hospital for a project such as this, and it’s great they have been able to provide an analytical perspective to the menus that staff wouldn’t usually have.”

Thanks to the new menus, Alderney Hospital expects to see a reduction in its food wastage figures which could lead to significant savings.