Sponsored by Unilever Food Solutions
This award recognises the company that has shown the greatest commitment and taken the most innovative steps towards developing food that meets the growing demand for healthier, nutritional eating. And in this, the Hesley Group has certainly proved itself.
The group, which specialises in providing residential care for people with complex autistic conditions across five schools and adult villages in South Yorkshire, was singled out for its achievements at flagship site, Hesley Village.
In 2010, having experienced a "painfully honest" appraisal of the nutritional quality of residents' home-prepared diets, the team took swift and purposeful action. First, they employed a professional catering manager and brigade of experienced chefs supported by NHS dietitians. Then they set themselves the ambitious target of providing the healthiest residential care in the UK.
What they have achieved is impressive. The new menus provide a wide range of options, including vegetarian and ethnic, agreed in advance with residents - and there are at least 14 hot meals a week. The chefs pledge to use at least eight different vegetables a week, serve fish twice a week and use minimal salt.
Dishes are now all cooked fresh and include, for instance, salmon, potato and spring onion fishcake with sweet chilli sauce served with lemon potatoes or a vegetarian option such as vegetable stir fry, served with spicy cabbage and coconut and broccoli.
To make sure the food is of a high standard, all chefs receive level 2 and 3 Diet and Nutrition training and both staff and residents are asked for regular feedback.
A critical indicator of the health benefits in moving from a processed diet to an all-fresh one, is that the staff have noticed a significant reduction in accidents among residents.
To achieve all this, however, the staff have had to overcome several difficulties. The residents, being autistic, require clear menus in a variety of formats, but the team have overcome the this logistical nightmare to ensure each resident receives a tailored menu with recipe sheets for each three-week seasonal menu cycle. Similarly, as many residents have gut conditions, ingredients have to be free from common allergens.
"At a time when service in residential homes is in the spotlight, it is good to see that Hesley Village is taking extra special care in catering for this group of autistic residents," observed Vic Laws, judge and director at AVL Consultancy. "Not only do they look after their clients in the home but also provide a range of nutrition-friendly recipes for those who are more able to look after themselves. This also helps to measure their clients' food intake."
Nicky Martin, senior nutritionist at Compass, summed up what was so special about Hesley Group: "They have made positive nutritional changes to their menu cycles, which now show a great balance of both macro- and micro-nutrients. This, in turn, has shown a positive change in the behaviour of the residents. Overall, a simple but effective nutrition intervention working with a challenging population group. Fantastic."
â- Elior UK
â- The Hesley Group
â- Wirral University Teaching Hospital Trust
Vic Laws, director, AVL Consultancy
Nicky Martin, senior nutritionist, Compass
Michael Raffael, food writer
John Williams, executive chef, the Ritz hotel, London
Rick Wilson, director of nutrition and dietetics, King's College Hospital
Simon Young, executive chef, Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel, London