Key messages

  • The Victorian Government is committed to ensuring that food served in our public hospitals and public sector residential aged care services is fresh, healthy and where possible, locally sourced, supporting Victorian farmers and producers.
  • From 2020, all Victorian public hospitals and public aged care services will be required to follow new health and quality food standards, informed by a comprehensive audit of  their food services.
  • The audit will assess the nutritional value, quality (including taste, variety and cultural diversity) and origin of the food being served up in public hospitals and aged care services across Victoria.
  • Food currently served in our public hospitals and public aged care services is of high quality and nutritious. This project aims to build on this and look at further opportunities to improve cultural diversity, variety and sourcing of local food. 

Why is this initiative important?

  • Nutritious food supports healthy ageing and is essential for optimal patient treatment and recovery. Food also provides a sense of wellbeing and emotional comfort and is an important expression of cultural identity.
  • Poor nutrition is common and significantly contributes to the burden of disease. In Victoria, the community cost of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, many cancers, obesity and some mental health disorders is substantial and growing.
  • The 2016 Victorian Government Better, Safer Care report identified nutrition standards as important to minimise harm and prevent complications, such as malnutrition and dehydration.
  • Food is more than a vital component to supporting health. Providing food that meets preferences for taste and variety is particularly important for aged care residents.
  • Sourcing of local and Victorian grown and produced food, where possible, will contribute to the provision of healthy and high-quality food and support local economies.
  • The results of the audit are expected to inform new standards to ensure procurement arrangements treat Victorian produce favourably, and that general hospital and aged care menus are nutritious, varied and culturally diverse. 

About the audit

The audit will be informed by existing government policy, including:

What is in scope of the audit?

The audit will cover foods and drinks provided to inpatients and aged care residents in Victorian public hospitals and Victorian public sector residential aged care facilities:

  • At the bedside – via the general inpatient/resident menu (Full Ward Diet) and
  • Through retail food outlets (in house) and vending machines located in health services

It will assess:

  • The nutritional value (healthiness according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines)
  • Quality – including taste, variety and cultural diversity
  • Patients'/consumers' experience of the food
  • Whether the food is locally produced in Victoria 

What is not in scope of the audit?

The following matters are not within the audit scope:

  • Therapeutic/medically required diets (except ‘soft’ and ‘minced moist’ texture modified diets).
  • Private retailers i.e. retail food outlets (cafes, kiosks, franchises, convenience outlets) located on health service premises that operate under a lease or sublease arrangement.
  • Food safety (hospitals already abide by strict food safety regulations and standards)
  • Non-government residential aged care facilities and non-government hospitals. 
  • Local food procurement practices of retail food outlets within health services.

Consumer consultation

This audit will also use information from the Victorian Health Experience Survey, a survey conducted continuously and reported quarterly to collect information from recent users of public health services on their patient experience, including specific questions about hospital inpatient food.

Community members will also be able to share their expectations of food being served in public hospitals and public sector residential aged care services by completing a survey available on the Engage Victoria website. The survey will be open from 15 October to 25 November 2019.  

Project reference group

A project reference group is providing guidance to the project. The project reference group comprises key stakeholders, including but not limited to representation from metropolitan, rural and regional health services, central production kitchens public sector residential aged care services, dietitians, Health Purchasing Victoria and consumers (patients/aged care residents). Project reference meeting communiques will be available on this webpage.  

Timelines

The audit will commence in October 2019 and conclude by late January 2020, with subsequent policy announcements anticipated mid-2020. 

Health services and aged care facilities have received information about this project.

More information

For information about the healthy and high-quality foods in Victorian public hospitals and aged care facilities project or to provide additional feedback, please email healthyfoodproject@dhhs.vic.gov.au.