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Maggie Beer helps dish up next step in leading aged care research

Celebrity cook Maggie Beer and Bond University PhD student Cherie Hugo joined forces to dish up a nutritious meal for retirement home residents, as one of the most in-depth research projects ever undertaken into aged care nutrition in Australia reaches its second phase.

The Lantern Project, an initiative of Ms Hugo, who also directs My Nutrition Clinic, is investigating food and nutrition in elderly Australians, with the first component, a dental study, expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.

The three year study, now in its second year, is being backed by Ms Beer's the Maggie Beer Foundation, launched last year with the aim of improving the quality and taste of food available in aged care homes.

Statistics show one in two aged care residents are undernourished.

Ms Beer and Ms Hugo, along with Bond University Head of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Maggie Beer Foundation board member, Professor Liz Isenring, visited the Adventist Retirement Village in Victoria Point, just south of Brisbane, last week to demonstrate healthy cooking with an intimate group of about 25 residents.

Ms Hugo said Bond University was working with the University of Queensland's School of Dentistry on the first phase of The Lantern Project, with the final data being collected and results to be formulated over the next month.

"The dental study is the prelude to the next phase of the research, with residents identified as having nutrition issues to be assessed further as part of the 'nourish' study," she said.

"We're also preparing to release an app Australia-wide, encouraging residents, family members, aged care staff and other health practitioners to provide feedback on the food and dining experience.

"This will help us to better understand where people's priorities lie, whether it be nutrition, flavour or the dining experience, for example, so we can delve into the complex issue of what is stopping aged care residents from eating and how to increase their intake of nutritious food.

"We are encouraging positive feedback, as well as negative experiences, that will help us learn strategies and techniques that have worked and how we can look to help facilities improve going forward."

Ms Hugo said a team of stakeholders, including Ms Beer, aged care staff, general practitioners, allied health workers, researchers, resident advocates and catering teams, met regularly to discuss The Lantern Project and how to drive the initiative forward.

"Maggie has such a positive message that dining should be about beautiful food and a beautiful experience, and that really supports what we are trying to achieve with The Lantern Project," she said.

"She has also brought Peter Morgan Jones on board, renowned for his book 'Don't Give Me Eggs That Bounce', and together they are like dynamite in terms of providing feedback from a catering perspective, where, as a dietitian, I’m here to ensure the choices are action-packed with nutrients too. In our partnership, we make a great team.”

The Lantern Project aims to put a value on nutrition in aged care facilities, to help influence government policy and change.

Ms Beer said the Maggie Beer Foundation was created to bring about life-altering change to those in aged care.

"It should be everyone’s right to have good food and I believe that no one group of people need it more. My hope and passion is to provide older people with affordable, fresh food at home or in residential care homes," said Ms Beer.

"We hope that many others will join the Foundation's journey and help us create an appetite for life."

For further information visit The Lantern Project and theMaggie Beer Foundation.

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