Improving opportunities for food service and dietetics practice in hospitals and residential aged care facilities
Aim: Food is a phenomenon that everyone has an opinion on because eating is a frequent, often social occurrence, and as such the importance of mealtimes can be undervalued in healthcare settings. Some staff may not share our concerns about suboptimal dietary intakes as they assume that nutritional status will improve as people feel better. However, the provision and consumption of an appealing and adequate diet is a critical aspect of holistic health care. This review examines the role of dietitians in food services to improve the situation. Methods: A narrative review was formed with reference to the literature. Results: Labelling food service departments as a ‘hotel service’ or a ‘non-clinical service’ does little to assist the perception of these services by others; to enhance the knowledge and skills needed by others about optimising dietary intake opportunities by the sick and elderly; or to enhance the communication that is needed between stakeholders about food and mealtimes. The issue of addressing malnutrition, reviewing and improving menus, mealtime environments, feeding assistance, communication between staff, and acknowledgement of the important care role of food service providers becomes even more relevant as the population ages and the demand for health care grows. Conclusion: This narrative highlights that the importance of dietitians building links with food services, leading high-quality research, and improving the profile and recognition of food and mealtimes as integral to care, has never been greater.