“Food is central to our identity and I would hope that stays with us for however long we live,” says Senior Rabbi as new guide is launched to help care homes cater for a variety of diets.
To help ensure that the beliefs of a person, whether Jewish, Muslim, or Sikh, are respected should they enter care, Vegetarian for Life (VfL) has released a comprehensive and easy-to-follow manual and training programme.
Dietary Diversity in the Care Sector provides care caterers with information needed for service users to eat in the way that is central to their identity for the rest of their lives.
The guide is packed full of recipes and information on how a person’s religion or philosophical beliefs can affect their food choices, as well as what is legally required from care caterers in these situations.
Says Amanda Woodvine, Chief Executive of VfL, who worked on the guide: “A staggering 70 per cent of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems. Sadly, all too often VfL hears reports of someone with vegetarian philosophical beliefs, and cognitive losses, who is being served meat now that they are in care”.
With allergies, intolerances, and autoimmune diseases becoming increasingly relevant to the care sector, they are also given extensive coverage in the guide. Most people diagnosed with coeliac disease are over 50 years of age.
Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism UK, said: "Food is so central to our identity. I know this as a Jew and as a Rabbi and I am aware that is the same for my Muslim colleagues, and Hindu colleagues, and people of different religions.
"And then within that I am a passionate vegetarian with vegan leanings, and for the last year I have also been diabetic so I am conscious of the importance of what we eat.
"It's at the core of identity. Now, were it the case I was at some point living with dementia and had to move out of the family and community setting that has supported me and protected me and be dependent on the care of a home, I would deeply want all of those aspects of my identity to be respected. I'm sure nobody would think of giving me loads and loads of sugar, because medically it would be dangerous.
“But I feel at least as passionate, or more passionate about being Kosher and about being vegetarian. Those things are the rhythm and meaning of my life.
“It's protected under the Human Rights Act to support people in their diet and their choices. But it's also a part of honouring someone's dignity and personhood. I would hope that personhood stays with us for however long we live.”
Sophie Murray, deputy chair of the National Association of Care Caterers, has also praised the guide.
Ms Murray, who is also head of nutrition at Sunrise Senior Living, said: “The guide will be a great resource for those catering for those in care who are vegetarian, vegan or require specific dietary requirements."