A Q&A with Philip Mayling, director of food service supplier, MKG Foods (www.mkgfoods.co.uk)
“The largest issue facing the foodservice industry is consistency of supply. Thousands of manufacturers have woken back up from the slumber of lockdown to a market that is significantly reduced to what is was previously.
“The care industry shares a manufacturing chain with education and hospitality businesses. The issue is that the operating metrics of these manufacturers have been drastically altered, meaning operational capacity, lead times and available lines are significantly affected. Despite the fact the care industry’s demands for food supply have remained the most consistent with pre-COVID levels, this effect on the supply chain will cause issues with standard product availability.
“Therefore, food suppliers need to work hard with the care industry to make sure that when substitutions and replacements are needed, the nutritional supply for residents is not compromised. This can be done through conversations to discuss individual residents’ needs, as well as what the care home requires for the winter months.”
HOW ARE FOOD SUPPLIERS ENSURING CARE HOMES CONTINUE TO GET THE FOOD THEY NEED IN THE CASE OF REGIONAL OR NATIONAL LOCKDOWNS?
“There are two key elements to ensuring care homes continue to get the food they need. Food suppliers must maintain their regular delivery schedule with care homes, and many have done so throughout the pandemic, even when there has been a reduced trade in other sectors such as hospitality.
“Secondly, food suppliers are working with manufacturers to try and maintain stocks at a level to be prepared not just for the current interrupted supply, but potential extended lockdowns, whether these be regional or national. Food suppliers have been working with manufacturers throughout the pandemic and have tried to pre-empt what may come next to ensure supply is there for care homes.”
WHY ARE MEAL TIMES SO IMPORTANT IN GIVING RESIDENTS STRUCTURE TO THEIR DAYS, ESPECIALLY AS VISITS AND DAY TRIPS HAVE CEASED DURING THE PANDEMIC?
“In a time where visitors are either not allowed or greatly reduced, in addition to more social distancing and reduced staff, meals provide much needed structure and pleasure to residents’ days. For residents suffering from dementia, food also plays an important role in providing comfort, as often tastes and textures will remind them of their childhood or other special times in their lives.”
WHAT ROLE CAN FOOD SUPPLIERS PLAY IN ENSURING RESIDENTS RECEIVE BALANCED MEALS SHOULD THERE BE STAFF SHORTAGES IN KITCHENS DUE TO COVID-19?
“There are two proactive steps food suppliers can take to ensure residents received balanced meals in the case of kitchen staff shortages. They can make sure there is a continuity of account management support, so if the primary catering staff are forced to self-isolate, food suppliers can support the temporary replacement of staff, whilst also providing advice on key products.
“In addition, by ensuring options are in place for alternative products that require less preparation time, staff capacity can be greatly reduced, which may also be helpful for care homes that need to minimise the amount of staff they have in the kitchen to adhere to social distancing.”
WHAT MEASURES ARE FOOD SUPPLIERS PUTTING IN PLACE TO ENSURE THEY ARE DELIVERING TO CARE HOMES IN A COVID-SECURE MANNER?
“Many food suppliers have kept their processes at the same level they were during the original lockdown in March/April and have not scaled back their COVID-secure policies. Food suppliers are acutely aware of how serious a COVID outbreak in a care home can be, there- fore they take great care to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus when making deliveries. Drivers and other staff are kept isolated from meeting each other, and high levels of cleaning are carried out on both vehicles delivering food and the warehouse they come from. Drivers and staff within the warehouse are also required to wear PPE, such as masks and gloves.”