Vegetarian for Life

Launch of Special Dietary Network (UK)

Posted by Guest on 24/05/23 in VfL News and Events

On Tuesday, VfL hosted the inaugural meeting of a Special Dietary Network, held in Parliament.

This showcased our forthcoming research into diet and identity, and we heard from a number of expert speakers on the challenges around having dietary needs respected in care settings.

Anna Boardman of VfL set out the findings of a systematic literature review that she has been conducting into diet and identity, emphasising the centrality of diet to our sense of self.

Nitin Mehta, an expert and speaker on India’s spiritual heritage and vegetarianism and veganism, focused particularly on the complexities of Jain culinary requirements, and on a successful example of campaigning to improve the cultural sensitivity of hospital food.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain talked about Jewish dietary requirements and connections with identity, with food acting as a ‘daily reminder’ of the latter.

Yasmin Surti, who works nationally for the NHS and locally for the Federation of Muslim Organisations in Leicestershire, spoke about some of the subtleties of the relationship between food and culture in different Islamic communities, and how these are often not respected in care settings.

A video presentation by Dr Karan Jutlla described the work she has done exploring the treatment of South Asian individuals in care settings, focusing in particular on Sikh dietary requirements that often go misunderstood.

Beth Britton's experience as carer to her father who had vascular dementia for 19 years has led her to become a long-term campaigner on improving dementia care and support. She talked about the importance of finding different ways to communicate with people living with dementia, such as through life stories, so that we can know the person and thus begin to meet their needs.

It became clear in discussion that, for all the different particularities of the diets people of different faiths and none follow, there is a common desire to defend people’s autonomy and to see them treated with respect. There was an understanding that things do not always work so well on that front in care settings, and that one of the challenges is that the sector as a whole experiences under-funding and staffing pressures.

Yet there are examples of things working well, and a wealth of resources that can be tapped into.

So, while there was agreement that we cannot lose sight of these structural challenges, we can also support improvement in the sector by signposting what works well and focus on treating people as individuals through person-centred care.

There was thus optimism that this group could continue to work together in future, and that there were common threads to our experiences that point towards joint approaches to changing things for the better.

For updates on the work of the Special Dietary Network, join our Facebook group here. The group is for UK organisations with an interest in recognising and promoting the importance of dietary beliefs and practices to individuals receiving care.

This is a matter of dignity: no individual should have their health or beliefs compromised when receiving care.


Angela Atkins
06 June, 2023

Dear Anna
I apologise for having taken so long to respond. I found the event, and the accompanying literature which I took home, both extremely encouraging in terms of what can be achieved by better education in care settings and the empowerment of individuals, but also somewhat discouraging when you read   the testimonies of those who have been let down by the care system, especially in matters of respect.  There is also the question of a vegetarian asking to eat meat when they still have sufficient mental capacity to have decided that they wish to return to an omniverous diet; it is all about their autonomy and also the mitigation of distress to family members.
There were two people talking about their work, and I didn’t catch the name of the organisation that they represented. The man was called James, and they were sitting near the door.

I hope your work continues to gain ground.  For the record, I don’t do Facebook or any social media.

With best wishes,  Angela Atkins   clerk to Quaker Concern for Animals

Anna Boardman
08 June, 2023

Dear Angela,

Thank you for your comment, it was great meeting you and thank you for attending on behalf of Quaker Concern for Animals.

They were representatives from Care Home Magazine, and were keen to receive any stories or insight attendees had about good practice in care homes for those with dietary beliefs, so if you have any ideas please do contact them.

If you signed up for our mailing list, we will be in touch via email with the latest work of the Special Dietary Network, or please feel free to email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Very best wishes,


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