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The success of blended diets (a year on)

14 January 2022

As part of our ongoing commitment to innovation, excellence and providing the best opportunities for our young people to pursue their fullest potential, we were able to fundraise for the build of a brand new on-site kitchen. This kitchen was equipped with all the appliances that would allow us to provide not only healthy meals for our pupils but also cater for the various complex feeding needs of our young people.

Our head chef and mealtime supervisor, Sharon Ellis and Jenny Smith, have worked relentlessly over the past 18 months to apply the principles of IDDSI level (The International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative) to customise every meal to each child’s needs.

When visiting the kitchen, the passion, energy and determination of those that work there shines through. Sharon and Jenny are dedicated and ambitious, allowing the kitchen to go from strength to strength, delivering tasty, enjoyable, nutritious meals that can help the young people discover the joy of food, maintain weight and be as healthy as possible.

Blended diets

Each meal made in the on-site kitchen is part of a specialised blended diet, making it easier for our young people to eat and digest their food through a gastrostomy tube or orally. According to the IDDSI level (The International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative), there are 7 diet levels beginning at 7 which is regular food up to 3 which is a blended diet.

Every morning, the lunch team at Chailey Heritage Foundation spend around 2-3 hours making 70 meals tailored to each young person’s dietary requirements. The food is blended using various appliances including a Robocoup blender, which has the ability to blend to the finest of consistencies and holds its temperature for up to 12 hours. However, not all foods are easy to blend and the team often have to try different methods before achieving the perfect blended diet.

What’s on the menu?

We offer a varied menu including chicken casserole, fish pie and stir fries and the menu changes every 3 weeks. An assortment of vegetables such as butternut squash, red cabbage, carrots and peas add to the colour and flavour of each dish too. The young people choose their own meal each morning and that element of choice is important to the team here as it promotes independence.

Personalised diets

Building a personalised diet is a complex process, with each young person having an eating and drinking recommendation which is produced by each inividual’s named Speech & Language Therapist. The guidance includes things such as their likes, dislikes, position they need to be in when eating/ feeding and their IDDSI which specifies the consistency of the food they eat from a level 0 (completely pureed for tube feeding) to a level 7 (those with the ability to bite and chew).

Blended diets have been a real success at Chailey Heritage Foundation over the last year and the lunch team are always looking for better ways to improve the texture of the blended food and try out new recipes. The young people have really benefitted from being able to choose their own meals and we hope to continue providing this service in years to come.

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