Dining Preferences of Residents in Long-Term Care Facilities Changing Significantly

NFEF-sponsored research shows that a younger and more ‘food-centric’ population is more vocal about food preferences and satisfaction

Released: 19-Feb-2014 11:00 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals
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Newswise — (St. Charles, Illinois – Feb. 18, 2014) A new generation of residents in long-term care facilities is changing the way such facilities approach food-service and dining options, according to new research sponsored by the Nutrition & Foodservice Education Foundation (NFEF).

The research, conducted by Technomic, a national food-service industry research firm based in Chicago, shows that a younger population is moving into and staying in long-term care facilities for longer periods, bringing with them distinct preferences for food service and food choices.

In a nationwide survey of residents of long-term care facilities, family decision-makers, food service professionals and other stakeholders in the nutrition and foodservice industry, Technomic found that residents increasingly want more snacking options, dining options available all day, more fresh food, and “grab and go” food options rather than traditional sit-down service in dining rooms.

Nutrition and foodservice professionals who participated in the study also reported that they are experiencing greater demand from residents for food that is organic or natural, locally sourced, contains low or no sugar, and considered “good for you.” Additionally, residents want more authentic ethnic food and “unique” items on their dining menus.

“This study provides an important snapshot of what is happening in facilities all over the country, where nutrition and foodservice professionals are adapting to a new kind of long-term care diner,” said NFEF Chair Vicky Kearney, CDM, CFPP. “Older models of dining service are changing fast and we are likely to see a much different approach to food at these facilities in the future.”

Foodservice has become one of the most important decision-making factors when choosing a long-term care facility, according to the survey, with 90 percent of residents surveyed saying it is very or somewhat important in their decision-making. Foodservice ranks just slightly behind factors such as the impression of a facility’s caregiving staff (92%) and reputation of the facility (91%).

Statistics show that the percentage of younger residents in long-term care facilities is on the rise nationally, and this trend, according to Technomic researchers, may be helping drive the new interest in foodservice and dining options. Sixty five percent of residents at facilities in the Technomic study were age 65 or younger.

“While residents are generally satisfied with their facility’s foodservice, there is no question that they are seeking more options,” said Technomic Executive Vice President Bob Goldin, who leads Technomic’s Research and Consulting Division. “This trend will greatly impact menu, preparation methods, facility design, and staffing.”

Eighty six percent of the nutrition and foodservice professionals who participated in the study said they expect their menu offerings to change based on residents’ evolving food preferences, with 71 percent anticipating more flexibility around the timing of meals. Among other dining innovations participants expect to see at their facilities, based on consumer demand, are food carts/kiosks, snack shops, alcohol service, convenience stores and food courts.

Goldin said it is likely these trends will lead to a shift from a “medical” model of foodservice delivery to a “neighborhood” model by long-term care facilities. While the medical model has traditionally included centralized kitchens, common dining areas, limited offerings and set times for dining, the neighborhood model will include localized kitchens and dining, a wider variety of choices and more flexible times for dining.

Additionally, staffing at long-term care facilities will begin to emphasize cross-training and a more commercialized approach to dining, including hiring executive chefs and personnel with both nutritional and culinary skills.

“These changes are likely to come over time, as many facilities are facing budget constraints in the current economic environment,” Goldin said. “But we expect that in the long term change will occur as facilities recognize they have to evolve with the needs of their residents.”

Technomic surveyed 500 residents, 500 family members and 400 members of the Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals (ANFP) in conducting its research, along with other leaders and stakeholders in the nutrition and foodservice industry. The research was formally shared during an NFEF webinar in December attended by more than 700 online participants.

A white paper and more data from the study are available at www.NFEFoundation.org.

Kearney said the Technomic research and webinar are the first example of NFEF’s new programming, announced this year, that is aimed at helping nutrition and foodservice professionals learn about emerging trends and issues that will impact their careers. The foundation will support new educational materials and forums for working professionals and students, while providing grants and assistance to researchers, teachers and innovators, she said.

In addition to supporting research, the foundation announced that it plans to provide more opportunities for business leaders and entrepreneurs to highlight new service models and emerging best practices for the future.

NFEF, which is the philanthropic arm of ANFP), was originally founded in 1994, as the Dietary Managers Association (DMA) Foundation. It was re-configured as a part of the
DMA’s re-branding and name change to ANFP in 2012.

For more information about the Foundation, visit www.NFEFoundation.org.


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