Building relationships with residents and visitors, supporting the work of the nursing care system and ensuring nutrition is at the centre of care plans is vitally important for the catering team at the Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society, in Banstead, Surrey.

The team of nine produce over 70,000 meals each year for the 68 residents at Belvedere House, the charity’s nursing care home. The charity has been providing housing, residential and nursing care for former seafarers, their widows and dependents for over 150 years. This includes those with backgrounds in the Royal and Merchant Navies, Women’s Royal Naval Service, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and fishing fleets. The charity was founded in 1965 with HRH the Princess Royal as its patron.

Matt Goodman, catering manager says “We always meet new residents to discuss any dietary needs, likes and dislikes, where they like to eat and their favourite drinks and meals. Every Monday I visit each resident to discuss meals for the week including any special events taking place and residents receive a weekly menu.”

Matt, whose background is in care home catering, was introduced to the Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society by his grandmother Nora Jones, a former carer at the home. “I used to come here as a child and when a job came up, I knew I had to apply – that was eight years ago.”

Getting feedback from residents is crucial so they are always included, as well as staff, in the quarterly menu development sessions. “It’s important to create new fresh menus which keeps it exciting for the team and the residents,” says Matt. “We get input from residents such as dishes they would like to see on the menu and others taken off. It’s an opportunity to discover new ideas. Tasting sessions are also held so that residents can sample new dishes and be involved in creating future menus. Catering surveys enable residents to give further comments. We encourage visitors and relatives to have lunch with residents so they can also get involved.”

All menus are designed to cater for a variety of diets such as vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, diabetic, gluten free for those living with coeliac disease, as well as creating personalised plans for those living with dementia and dysphagia.

Matt says “We combine nutrition and taste as best we can. For example, by including creamy sauces and fish as often as possible so residents consume Omega-3 fatty acids which have an array of health benefits.”

Saffron, a web-based nutritional management system, is invaluable as it helps the catering team identify allergens in all the food served to residents. Matt adds, “In addition, it enables us to look at an individual resident’s needs – for example if they need their menu fortified, it tells us how many calories they require in their diet. We fortify diets by using ingredients such as cream, butter, full fat milk to increase calorie intake.”

For those living with dementia, Matt and his team ensure that mealtimes are made as easy as possible for both residents and carers. He says “Sometimes simple changes such as altering mealtimes where sleep patterns are disrupted can have a big impact as residents may become hungry and only want to eat at midnight rather than dinner time.”

Regular themed food events are held which gives the catering team a chance to get creative and offers residents something different such as Mexican day, Italian day and Caribbean day.