Community Chef is a unique and innovative local government-owned social enterprise that provides tasty, nutritionally-balanced quality meals at affordable prices.
Community Chef is the largest provider of prepared meals for the aged and disability care sector in Australia and they are passionate about providing a leadership role in advancing the nutritional well-being of the most vulnerable in the community; including the elderly, people with disabilities, hospital patients and aged care residents.
After first opening in late 2010, Community Chef now prepares and delivers more than 1.2 million meals a year to residents. To improve their menus Community Chef collaborated with the CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia (FIAL) in 2015 to improve their menus.
Boosting nutritional density of meals
Community Chef found that their portion sizes were too big, meaning clients were not getting adequate daily nutrition and were also often wasting food. Some clients reported preferring to skip meals so as not to waste the food that was left, further missing out on their daily nutritional intake.
“We realised we needed to do something about that and one of the ways we could see that we could have a positive impact on it was by reducing the size of the meals by increasing the nutritional density of the meals,” Community Chef CEO Joe Ciccarone said.
“So we made a connection with the CSIRO and through them FIAL and we were able to secure enough funding to get the project off the ground.”
Collaboration with CSIRO and FIAL
Dietitians from the CSIRO assessed and nutritionally profiled Community Chef’s popular menu items and looked at total energy, protein and a range of macro and micronutrients of concern for the aged population at risk of malnutrition such as fibre, zinc, iron and calcium.
Mr Ciccarone said that Community Chef’s relationship with the CSIRO and FIAL has given the organisation access to the best dietetics minds in Australia and increase the nutritional density of their meals while leading to less food wastage.
“[We were] able to increase the nutritional density of our meals using natural ingredients like a milk powder, like beans to boost that nutritional content and get the meal size down,” he said.