Conditions in hospitals are being criticized in France these days. By patients and carers. Among the topics at the heart of the debate, meal trays are an important matter. Improving the quality and even adopting menus to patients and their needs seems to be beneficial to support them on the road to recovery. And this should not necessarily require an increase in costs.
In order to make an inventory, LaNutrition launched a survey just one month ago, in order to identify through photographs the appearance and composition of meal trays in hospitals.
In terms of public policy: the “Meals in the Hospital” project, led by representative Frédéric Descrozaille, will be tested between April 2019 and June 2020. 3 Hospitals are being selected among the 40 candidates, they will have to propose superior quality meals to evaluate the influence of food on healing. The objective is threefold: to reduce food waste, improve the quality of life of patients during their stay in hospital and combat undernutrition.
Less waste, more quality
According to the MP, 40% of meals end up in trash, which corresponds to about 150 grams of food per meal. The cost therefore becomes important on a hospital scale: in the Hopîtal Necker in Paris 30 tons of food are thrown away each year.
Improving the quality of dishes would reduce the costs associated with this waste. That is why the cost of an optimized tray would not be so much higher than the current one. Today it costs between €1.35 and €1.80 and in the project of the Val de Marne deputy , €0.15 per tray are granted in addition, in order to guarantee quality.
How can we improve the quality of the meal at the hospital?
Most hospitals offer standardized meals, reheated in the microwave and ordered through a central purchasing office. Some approaches already exist with kitchens and dieticians who help adapt the menu, or with orders for superior quality products (organic in particular) and/or with proximity criteria.
The most convincing approach is surely “Repas Toqué“: a project led by Princess Margaux association and accompanied by chef Gregory Cohen in order to offer meals to young people hospitalized in Saint-Louis AP-HP. Patients can choose their menu to be served in a “real” plate with a real dressage instead of readymade dishes, on a coloured tray heated by a heated trolley rather than a microwave. These are small details that may seem harmless, but they affect the desire to eat, the opening of the appetite and therefore the consumption of the entire meal. The results of this pilot trial are already positive, patients have regained their appetite.
By eating better, beyond the psychological aspect, patients also prevent deficiencies and undernutrition. While regular meals provide about 1700 kcal during the day, the goal is to reach 2500 kcal and limit the intake of food supplements, representing an important budget for hospitals.
Meal trays to fight against undernutrition
More delicious but also more nutritious, that’s what we expect from meal trays today. According to the figures of the Collective to Combat Undernutrition, 30 to 40% of adults and 15% of children hospitalized suffer from undernutrition. A problem that arises during hospitalization, especially in the elderly (35% of them) or in people undergoing treatment who lose taste (such as people affected by cancer).
What about the product offer in clinical nutrition in all this?
Marketing is adapting, as shown by the latest ad for Lactalis Delical brewed yogurt. A packaging and visual similar to the classic yogurts like Force + products, for example. A product that seems closer to food than clinical nutrition.
Food in hospitals is subject to strong constraints both from the point of view of specifications (food cooked at more than 63°…) and the needs of each patient. With a relaxation of these specifications, different meals can be envisaged depending on whether they are intended for short stays, malnourished elderly people or chronically ill patients. A reflexion seems to be relevant in order to overcome logistical challenges and put the power of personalized nutrition at the service of helping patients to recover in hospitals.