Pictured from left at Langton House Hotel, Kilkenny, were chef, Tomas Riedl, and diners, Maureen O'Dwyer and Margaret Morrisey of St Patrick's Centre. Picture Dylan Vaughan.
Adults and children who find it difficult to swallow their food will find dining out or eating at home easier, tastier and far more nutritious through a landmark initiative in Kilkenny.
Kilkenny Leader Partnership has teamed up with a local centre for adults and children with intellectual disabilities, chef trainers and a leading dietician in the initiative targeting adults and children with dysphagia, their families and carers.
The Building an Inclusive Food Culture programme aims to ensure the needs of those with compromised swallow are met in mainstream menus in local hotels, cafes, pubs, restaurants etc. It also helps carers make healthy, nutritious, tasty meals. Adults and children at St Patricks’ Centre, on the edge of the city, are already benefitting.
The initiative comes just as Kilkenny prepares to welcome globally-renowned culinary crusader, President of the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance and the woman behind the pioneering Feast On programme, Rebecca Mackenzie, to the city to the launch of the Kilkenny Food Strategy.
The strategy is a blueprint for further development of the local food industry in the city and county, a region which is heavily dependent on food and accommodation and accounts for one in six jobs. The dysphagia project also builds on the county’s reputation as an inclusive and Age Friendly County. It is hoped that a dysphagia-friendly logo will be displayed on menus and windows in participating eateries soon.
A free workshop and cookery demonstration for families and carers runs on Saturday, October 26, at Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food. It will show them how to prepare more appealing, nutritious meals for those living with dysphasia. Free training sessions for local chefs run at the Kilkenny School of Food with a view to getting more food businesses on board.
KLP Assistant CEO, Martin Rafter, says the initiative is a first in Ireland and added that residents at St Patrick’s are already reaping the rewards.
“We want eateries to offer menus prepared in a manner that meets the needs of children and adults with compromised swallow and dysphagia. This will make eating out more appealing for adults with disabilities, the aging population and the growing numbers whose swallow is impacted by stroke, Motor Neuron Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson disease, Multiple Sclerosis and more,” he said.
There are social, cultural and economic benefits for the food industry within Kilkenny through this initiative and the response so far has been nothing short of phenomenal, according to chef trainers, Declan Furlong and Noel Ryan. Kilkenny-based dietician, Joan Mahon, also plays a key role.
Declan Furlong added: “We’re providing training for professional chefs in how to deconstruct and reconstruct fresh food in a manner that would serve those who need blended meals.
“The aim is to have a number of eateries across Kilkenny that can offer fresh, blended meals. This will offer many more options for the people who need these meals and help them to actively contribute as customers and citizens in their local communities and support local food producers.”
The workshop at the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food on Saturday, October 26, is an opportunity for the broader community to engage and learn how good food, prepared with care, can offer real food experiences to citizens with dysphagia, Mr Furlong added.
Staff in our community houses have already been trained," said St Patricks’ Mary O’Keeffe.
“The results speak for themselves. They’re observing improved appetite, weight gain and a significant mood change among our adults and children with dysphagia. Our shared ambition now is to look at how this learning can be shared with the wider community and the food and hospitality industry as a whole.”