It took an undercover investigation and a lot of angry seniors and their families, but residents of Alberta Health Service’s long-term facilities will be served real food once again.
For the past two years they have been stuck with re-heated, bland glop, stripped of flavor and light on nutrition, all in the name of slashing food budgets.
Sub-Standard Food As Cost-Cutting Measure
In December 2009 Alberta Health Services (AHS) launched a new, standardized menu for hospitals and nursing homes having fewer than 125 beds. Centralized food preparation facilities were supposed to mean cost savings. Workers were laid off. Menus were planned on a 21-day rotation.
The food was so inferior some residents stopped bothering to come to meals. Food is medicine, but the processed, heat-and-serve food was not. Staff complained of increases in urinary tract infections and wounds that healed more slowly. Nutritionists worried about the potential for more colds and flus, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer – all related to the poor diet.
On June 4, 2012, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) posted a video expose on YouTube. Tough to Swallow: Meals That Sparked a Seniors Revolt featured interviews with former and current caregivers, families, and seniors. The people stuck with the re-heated meals had plenty to say about their quality, such as:
John Gilchrist, CBC radio food critic and food writer for the Calgary Herald, went to Stettler Hospital & Care Centre with hidden cameras. After sampling the food, he said:
As low as my expectations were, they managed to somehow exceed them in the quality of the food. I didn’t think that some of that food that those people were served even existed any more.
He complained of watery potatoes, glossy gravy, and meats with no flavor or texture. He said it was some of the worst food he had had in years.
Next: Agitating for Change
Photo 1 from AUPE video; Photo 2 from Thinkstock
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