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AHS contradicts itself on value of home-cooked meals

To the Editor: Alberta Health Services (AHS) recently did a news release regarding the “improvements” that will be made to the Provincial 21 Day Menu Plan which is in place in all publicly owned hospitals and long term care centres of 125 beds or les

To the Editor:

Alberta Health Services (AHS) recently did a news release regarding the “improvements” that will be made to the Provincial 21 Day Menu Plan which is in place in all publicly owned hospitals and long term care centres of 125 beds or less - in essence, rural Alberta.

Before I comment on the news release, I would like to draw your attention to the November issue of Apple, AHS’s publication. An article on family health champions home cooked meals as the number one way to stay well. All of the frozen stuff is just too high in salt, fat, and sugar.

“Cooking from scratch is beneficial because it provides a well balanced diet with variety and appreciation of where food comes from,” notes dietician Samara Felesky-Hunt.

Does Alberta Health Services realize how contradictory this type of information is in relation to its decision to serve frozen, pre-packaged foods to patients and residents in hospitals and long term care centres? The decision to continue serving this type of food simply astounds me. Oh there will be improvements, we are told. There will be more meat and potatoes. What they fail to tell us is that the potatoes will still be cooked elsewhere, frozen in plastic bags and shipped from their distribution centre in Calgary to be “re-thermalized” in our local kitchens. The potatoes weren’t great before, so getting more of them makes it better? Nice to know that there will be more meat served. I only hope it replaces the vegetarian chili, vegetarian lasagne, and meatless meatballs as well, as the many pasta dishes that are currently served. If this meat continues to be tasteless, odourless, and tough to cut and chew, then this is no improvement.

There is no mention of fresh fruit being added to the menu but there will be more puddings and pies. Again, the puddings in their plastic containers with the hard to tear off foil lids will not be welcomed by patients/residents who cannot manage to open them, and increases more landfill waste.

An Executive Chef will also be added to AHS’s top heavy bureaucracy to assist kitchen staff. There are already too many levels of bureaucracy without adding more. Who needs an Executive Chef to heat frozen foods?

Lodges provide good quality home cooked food to their residents for under $10/day. This includes the cost of the food (three meals and snacks), kitchen staff, and utilities. They can do it at this rate because they do not have a bureaucratic structure that also needs to be paid. AHS has five levels of bureaucracy to pay before they pay for the food, shipping, storage, heating, and kitchen staff. This is far from an efficient use of tax dollars. The money should be spent on good food that is prepared on site. This system worked well for years and nobody died from the food they were served.

It is true that Alberta (and all of Canada for that matter) has a growing epidemic of health issues directly related to poor diets. Everyone must take responsibility to keep him/herself healthy by eating well. Trying to “shape up” the old and the frail is starting at the wrong end of the spectrum.

I will continue to speak out about the ill-conceived plan of the Provincial 21 Day Menu. Perhaps when it is legislated that this food plan be put in place in the legislative cafeteria, our elected politicians and their hired superboard will realize just how foolish this all is. AHS must get over the attitude of “ we know what is best for you”.

I welcome feedback and can be contacted at 780-645-7757. This is for the public to know how to reach me. Alberta Health Services already does! Edith Read St. Paul





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