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River Cottage teams up with Eating with Dignity

In the summer of 2012 a group of medical and healthcare professionals embarked on a collaboration that would raise awareness of a shared concern.

It is often reported that the food served in hospitals, care homes and rehabilitation institutions can be below the standard we would want for our own loved ones. However the issue has greater consequences when you consider how a great meal can make someone feel.

Food not only has the power to provide life nurturing vitamins, proteins and minerals but also has the ability to make someone in distress smile. When life is at its toughest, this small piece of enjoyment should not be disregarded, but instead promoted as a key step in healing and enhancing life.

Eating with Dignity is a charity based in the South West of England that works tirelessly to raise awareness of this very issue. Through a network of like-minded individuals and businesses, they seek to make more people aware of the important role food plays in rehabilitation and care.

River Cottage were approached by Joseph Kent, a local GP and founding member of Eating with Dignity, to see if there was any support that could be offered. He wanted to work with a business of high integrity that was very much a part of the local community. The Chefs School team immediately wanted to help and got straight to work on developing a range of recipes chefs and cooks could pick up and produce for their patients. To support these recipes, a course was developed so that those responsible for care could learn more about producing healthy and tasty dishes.

Chefs’ School have previous experience in developing courses that focus on nutrition and keeping the body healthy and in peak condition. They had previously worked with the GB Olympic Diving and Paralympic teams to build a course that helped athletes produce great tasting, body fuelling dishes whilst they are in training or on tour. These courses were used as the basis of the programme created for Eating with Dignity.

In addition to building recipes and the courses, River Cottage have committed to help increase the transparency of the importance of food within this territory and will stage a number of events throughout 2014 that gets more people involved.

Stefani Smith, Chef Tutor at River Cottage Chefs’ School said “Statistics show that 75 percent of healthcare spending goes to treating preventable chronic diseases, most of which are diet-related caused by processed foods. Our partnership with Eating with Dignity is unique as it connects our desire to increase the use of sustainable, seasonal and local ingredients with the ambition to provide tasty and healthy meals to societies most vulnerable. There are no barriers to what we are trying to achieve, every individual has the ability to enjoy food to the full and the creative minds in the kitchen have the ability to put pleasure on to the plate. It’s an incredibly exciting project to be part of and one that has the ability to change many lives for the better”.

The partnership seeks to work with local care homes, promoting Eating with Dignity with carers in the community. In addition, cooks and chefs responsible for the provision of food to those that are vulnerable can increase their culinary offering to include some new dishes that support health and drive dining enjoyment.

The new recipes and training programme have already been used by Eating with Dignity to positive effect. Harry, a local sixth form student and rising rugby star has benefited from the support he was provided after suffering a painful injury, “Eating with Dignity helped me through a big rough patch after breaking my jaw. Before I was playing rugby, eating what I needed to keep me going and maintaining the weight and size I required. The hardest bit about breaking my jaw was being hungry all day due to the lack of meal options available to me. I was still training to maintain muscle mass and keep healthy, so needed to keep eating meals that contained the protein and nutrients required to sustain my physical fitness. The recipes I was provided really helped, River Cottage sent me a stewed apple smoothie recipe that was lovely, and the chicken and apricot dish was perfect, as was the beef and sweet potatoes”

Another key advocate of the work Eating with Dignity is doing is Lorraine. Lorraine is a live in carer for June. “Swallowing medication is the most difficult part of June’s routine; therefore, I back ‘real food’. Not only is it healthy, fresh and nutritious, but is palatable and tasty. Eating with Dignity has improved her quality of life as much as she looks forward to the many things offered and the support that is always available.”

The River Cottage team are committed to further support the work that Eating with Dignity is engaged in, providing even more recipes and training for the foreseeable future.

Chris Griffin, Head of Education stated “Eating with Dignity are promoting the importance of healthy, nutritious and tasty food to drive rehabilitation and enjoyment. At River Cottage we promote the importance of seasonal, local, sustainable and delicious food across industry. There are clear and obvious connections between our objectives and I will be delighted if we can help Eating with Dignity amplify awareness of the very important work they are doing”. You will be able to get regular updates on this collaboration and the work of Eating with Dignity by visiting

Eating with Dignity are also on Twitter and can be followed at @eatwithdignity