Since its inception 25 years ago, the NACC has evolved into the "voice" of the care catering sector. Chair Karen Oliver (pictured) explains how it got here and what the future holds
March 1987 saw the launch of the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) - originally named the Advisory Body for Social Services Catering. The brainchild of 12 progressive authorities - Bolton, Manchester, Durham, Avon, Lancashire, Bradford, Cleveland, Leeds, Calderdale, Cumbria, Nottinghamshire and Humberside - it was born out of recognition that catering is a fundamental part of the caring role.
With resources for catering officers varying dramatically from authority to authority, governed by population, environment, political control or management structure, the NACC sought to support and unite care caterers in delivering the very best service to society's most vulnerable.
Fast forward 25 years, a name change, and a quantum leap in membership from just 66 to more than 600, and the NACC has evolved into the dynamic and nationally recognised "voice" of the care catering sector, an adviser and influencer of government policy, and the benchmark for best practice.
Over the past quarter of a century, it has addressed a wide variety of issues that, although different on the surface, have one common dominator - the absolute need to raise awareness of the fact that good nutrition and hydration are imperative in care catering. It has also provided guidance and tools to raise standards, promote excellence and eradicate malnutrition and dehydration.
In the early days, one such issue was compulsory competitive tendering, which was splitting the education caterers away from direct local authority control into direct service organisations. The result of this fragmentation was that the social care caterer often found itself isolated with little or no support. With this came the recognition that specifications to embed good nutrition within community meals services were urgently needed, and the NACC produced its first national industry standard in 1992.
Since this first ground-breaking document, the NACC has worked tirelessly to address all issues surrounding nutrition and hydration. It has published many definitive guidance documents that are relied upon within the sector, and produced standards for nutritional content for meals that - although not compulsory legislation - provide a solid benchmark for caterers.
Its successful national campaigns have also put care catering firmly on the map. National Community Meals Week, which has enjoyed the support of the Duchess of Cornwall, highlights the service that provides a vital lifeline to the vulnerable living at home in the community; The Care Cook of the Year competition showcases chefs' skills, raises standards and changes perceptions of food in care; and the award-winning No One Should Go Hungry campaign maintains a high profile for the nutrition and hydration message.
So what do the next 25 years hold? The older age group is the fastest-growing segment of the population, with the over-75s expected to reach nine million by 2050. The cost of public spending on social care will need to triple over the next 20 years just to keep up with the ageing population. These figures show the need for a national body, such as the NACC, to monitor, make recommendations and produce guidance on nutrition and hydration for future generations.
There is still no national nutrition policy or legislation in the UK for older people, even though unnecessary cases of malnutrition are still reported. Where malnutrition and dehydration exists, the NACC will continue campaigning and supporting care caterers. Who knows? Legislation could be part of the future.
The 1999 Lord Mayor's Show saw NACC members pulling a large plate of food around the streets of London
World record attempt
The NACC is calling on caterers to help set a world record for the total number of the same community meal served to service users on the same day.
The nationwide challenge will take place on 1 October in National Community Meals Week as part of the organisation's 25th anniversary celebrations this year.
Participating operators will be asked to deliver the exact same two-course menu to customers, comprising roast beef, potatoes and seasonal vegetables, followed by apple crumble and custard.
Karen Oliver, NACC national chair, urged all service providers to take part. "The world record attempt is incredibly exciting and a fantastic way to launch National Community Meals Week in this, the NACC's silver anniversary year," she said.
"By securing the world record we will really highlight the fantastic service and clearly demonstrate the sheer number of people that rely on this lifeline."
The NACC National Training & Development Forum
The NACC is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an extra-special gathering of care caterers at the annual National Training & Development Forum.
All the past national chairs of the NACC will be present at the event, to be held on 19-21 September at the Hilton hotel, Blackpool.
In addition to anniversary celebrations, the forum will once again be an essential training and development event for caterers in the care sector through a mix of speakers, workshops and networking opportunities.
New elements for 2012 include the care catering culinary demonstration theatre, which will feature a demonstration by 2012 NACC Care Cook of the Year Ellie Cook; a networking brunch with a speaker presenting a masterclass in "the massive goal principle"; a focused supplier exhibition and parallel training workshops.
The NACC outside No 10 with the Blairs in 1998