Providing residents in its 10 residential care homes with nutritious, appealing and high quality food is a priority for Pilgrims’ Friend Society (PFS), the Christian charity committed to supporting elderly people. That they achieve this despite the many health and dietary challenges presented by their residents is thanks to the commitment of the PFS managers and chefs, ably supported by Lynx Purchasing, who negotiate prices for all the charity’s food and related kitchen items.
PFS was founded in 1807 – when it was known as the Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society – by a group of Christians who were concerned about “the aged and infirm Christian poor”. William Wilberforce was an early Vice President, and Lord Shaftesbury was a ‘committed friend’, spreading the word about its work. Today, PFS helps Christian and non-Christian older people in its 10 residential care homes and four other sites offering independent living, which stretch from north Yorkshire to the south coast.
Lynx Purchasing has worked with PFS for 12 years, negotiating prices on all food items – fresh, chilled, frozen and dry goods – as well as associated products from cling film to chopping boards.
For Maureen Sim, PFS’s operations director, working with Lynx brings a number of benefits, the main one being to free up her time to focus on other aspects of caring for residents.
“Food purchasing is something I just don’t have to worry about or spend a lot of time on, because I know Lynx will negotiate the best prices to secure the best quality across the range of products we need. Over the years, Lynx have developed a firm grasp of our business, so when they suggest using a different fish or cut of meat, I have total faith in that product’s quality and suitability for our residents. Just as importantly, I know the cost is going to be within our budget.”
Across its 10 care homes, PFS provides three meals per day to around 260 residents, equating to just over 24,000 meals per month. Given their age profile, it’s perhaps not surprising that traditional meat, fish and vegetable based meals are the most popular.
Staff at the homes use a Nutritional Requirements Form to record residents’ likes, dislikes and allergies and the MUST (Must Risk Screening Tool), which identifies risk of malnutrition. Sim says,
“Many of our residents have small appetites, so ensuring they consume sufficient calories to maintain a healthy weight can be a challenge. We work hard to tempt their taste buds with interesting, good quality meals, and by encouraging healthy snacking on foods such as fruit. For a number of residents we also fortify meals with milk powder.”
Other health conditions also impact on diet design, diabetes being the most common. Sim adds, “Lynx have become very knowledgeable about the specialist diets required for many elderly people, so in our discussions they will often suggest alternative diabetic foods, for example. Having this informed support is a huge help.”
Seasonality is another aspect of menu design that Lynx manage to great effect for PFS. Sim explains,
“Lynx are talking to their suppliers regularly, so they have their finger on the pulse as to what products are offering good value now and how that might change in the months ahead. So they make recommendations on what foods we should be using that will keep our residents and our budget looking healthy. We certainly don’t have time to monitor prices of all the foods we buy, so are grateful for their expertise.”
Lynx also offers invaluable support to PFS in managing their food budget. Sim explains,
“Whenever we want to look at food expenditure, Lynx can send us exactly what we need, straight away. We can look at what each care home is spending on food, right down to individual items. This means we can identify unusual expenditure, which might indicate a purchasing error by the chef at one home. Lynx also provide a report on purchasing patterns across all our homes, and calculate our food spend per resident, which obviously we need to control, while also providing the best quality food we can.”
One of the suppliers Lynx works with is Brakes, whose in-house nutritionists have been a great support to the PFS team, as Sim explains.
“The Brakes nutrition team have run mini-conferences for our chefs, have cooked sample dishes for us and offered other advice as we’ve needed it. We have a great team of chefs in our homes, but getting a fresh perspective from expert nutritionists helps to motivate our staff and keeps our food interesting and nutritious for our residents.”
Lynx Purchasing’s help and advice has also been beneficial in helping PFS through periods of change, as the society’s procurement officer Phil Willis explains.
“PFS has grown through acquisition over the years and with each new care home that joins us, there are food contracts that need to be reviewed.”
“Lynx were a huge help during the integration of the Ernest Luff Homes in Walton-on-the-Naze. They reviewed the food buying that was in place, met the Ernest Luff team at the site and made everyone feel comfortable about the new arrangements. They were calm, patient and made the time to visit people and talk things through, rather than doing it all remotely, which made a big difference to the outcome.”
“After 12 years of working together, Lynx really are a part of PFS team. They go to great lengths to help us deliver the very best food we can to our residents, and we have total trust in them.”
Providing residential care for the elderly is unlikely to get any easier in the years ahead, with an ageing population and a squeeze on care budgets. Sim says,
“Our goal is to provide the best possible level of care for our elderly residents, and food is a vital part of this: the right diet can really transform their health and wellbeing, which is wonderful to see.”
“What’s great about working with Lynx is that I feel they always do the very best they can for us on food quality and price. Lynx take the stress out of our food purchasing and allow us to ‘buy better’; there’s no doubt the meals served at PFS homes have been improved thanks to their involvement.”