Trevor White and Austin Health's Food Services team

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Nourishing and nurturing with food

You Said, We Did: In the Victorian Healthcare Experience Survey, people told us that we needed to improve our food - and we have!

Gently spiced curries, healthy chicken burgers, traditional roast beef and warm salads - sounds like the menu of a favourite restaurant! The team behind the revitalisation of Austin Health's food menu is passionately determined to create an appetising hospital food menu.

It is an enormous challenge: serve hundreds of plates of food every day to patients from hundreds of different multicultural backgrounds whilst also meeting individual dietary needs and keeping the nutritionists happy. A daunting task; yet extremely important to get right. When done well, hospital food should help nourish patients as they recover from surgery, energise them as they regain strength and importantly, nurture them when they feel at their most vulnerable.

The team at Austin Health's Food Services know the vital role they play and have carefully crafted a fresh and modern food experience to nourish and nurture patients in the best possible way.

The team started by focusing on an essential food for illness: soup.

Trevor White, general manager of Food Services says hospital soups had become too watery, tasteless and odd in appearance. "Food must look good otherwise patients will be disappointed before they have even tasted it. They won't want to eat it which is a huge problem when we are trying to help our patients recover."

Chefs spent time researching improved versions of the hospital soups and redesigned the soup menu with the approval of dieticians. Patient satisfaction immediately increased.

"That's the thing about food," says Mr White. "It doesn't take much to improve the quality."

Since then, the team has fully reviewed its entire menu - modernising multicultural dishes, refining traditional comfort foods such as stews, modifying sauces and enhancing presentation. They have even designed healthy, fast food options for patients on unrestricted diets.

"Fifty per cent of our patients are not on a diet and yet are being served diet foods," says Mr White. "Equally, we recognised that we needed to start producing dishes that better reflect the multi-cultural nature of Australian society - much like the Melbourne restaurant scene - because we admit patients from well over a hundred different countries of birth."

"We want patients to feel really cared for and to genuinely look forward to their meals. Both our food and customer service must complement the medical care patients receive. That will be our ongoing aim."