When Maggie Beer, 71, was awarded Senior Australian of the Year back in 2010, she was so moved, it gave her the motivation to find a way to upgrade the food in aged care from “Okay” to “fresh and full of pleasure.”
“The trigger took a while to happen,” she adds, “but the journey really began after being named Senior Australian of the Year and I was asked to speak to a thousand CEOs in aged care at their annual conference in Hobart.”
When asked if she’s experienced food in an aged care facility first hand, Maggie says she has because she did her own research before speaking at the conference and this included visiting aged care homes and meals on wheels.
“I saw some good and a lot bad,” she says but quickly adds: “I didn’t want to dwell on negative experiences but to find the great exponents of aged care and celebrate them.
Maggie’s experiences led her to believe there was a great need to educate and train the people who work with food in aged care.
“I just thought I’d do it. Meeting people from aged care, seeing aged care places… Then one thing led to another and I decided I needed to set up the Maggie Beer Foundation. It took us two years to fully set it up but it’s all up and running now,” she adds.
“I truly believe there is no reason ever to have bad food.” – Maggie Beer
Food becomes the most important thing!
Because of Maggie’s inherent love of food and her vast knowledge of it – at 71 she’s forged a successful career in food spanning five decades so far – she understands so well that as people get older, one of the big pleasures they look forward to each day is their food.
“Food becomes the most important thing for people to look forward to – it really does!” she emphasises. “My first thing is that every meal should be fresh food and nutritionally sound and full of pleasure.”
“But you have to care about food and understand the difference beautiful food makes to a person every day, to know how important it is,” she says.
“I’m concerned from a nutritional point of view of course, but mostly about pleasure; the pleasure of a meal of fresh ingredients cooked with care,” she adds.
Join Maggie on her mission to bring great food to all ages
Many hands make light work
Maggie takes part in each one of the Foundation’s Masterclasses and the results speak for themselves. “Together with my very small team, I am at the core of each of the Masterclasses,” she says proudly.
Maggie is quick to point out she couldn’t have established the Maggie Beer Foundation on her own: “I pulled together a lot of recipes for aged care and out of that came other help. Dr Stephen Judd from Hammond Care in Sydney contacted me, so I saw him and we thought we could work together. We found Peter Morgan Jones, the chef and we went from there.”
The Foundation runs Education Programs aimed at educating chefs, cooks and kitchen hands in the aged care sector in ways to make meals even more flavoursome and nutritional.
“This is not an easy journey as it’s an incredibly complex issue.” – Maggie Beer
Understanding the issues
Maggie’s quick to add that because she’s worked in the food industry for so many years, she does understand the issues many cooks and chefs are faced with when cooking for large numbers of people. She says, “They can be frustrated by the many complex issues which can overload them.”
Maggie believes that good, fresh food should be available for all Australians
“This can easily result in expedient decisions being made instead of the basic premise where the kitchen is the heart of the home,” she adds. “By coming together and sharing the positive stories and ideas, we can make change together.”
This is what The Maggie Beer Foundation is all about – compiling all of the research and knowledge that’s in the world domain and this makes it easier to pass this knowledge on and help those who are in conditions we would not accept ourselves.
“There is no better way to be a catalyst for change than by making it a conversation for the whole community.” – Maggie Beer
Making it happen
While many may have seen the need for improvement in the food in aged care, not many people would have had the determination to actually make real change happen. To this end, Maggie has gathered around her Board Members for the Foundation with varied skills.
Good food is something everyone looks forward to, so why should it be different when you're older?
With help from all of these people and many others, the Foundation has formulated Education Programs and established a research program which links up with some universities and other research organisations. Through this research, the Foundation aims to produce practical, real-world guides and procedures which will give a better quality of life for those who need it.
Keeping fit for her hectic lifestyle
If running the Maggie Beer Foundation isn’t enough for Maggie, she’s also recently filmed the second season of Foxtel's Great Australian Bake Off, where she is a judge alongside Sydney chef, Matt Moran. So it’s a foregone conclusion that even at 71, she has no plans to retire soon.
So how does she keep herself fit and healthy so she can keep up with her hectic lifestyle?
“I have huge energy in that I am doing what I love and see no reason to slow down. There is so much to do,” she says.
How can the average person help?
“There are so many ways but the very best thing is to start with becoming a member via our website,” says this passionate advocate for good food for all.
Since the launch of the Maggie Beer Foundation two years ago, there’s been so much correspondence received from various individuals and organisations with offers of help, comments on the food experiences in aged care homes, suggestions and requests. The Foundation’s work continues, with new Education Programs scheduled for next year.
If you would like to support the Maggie Beer Foundation then you can make a donation here.
What do you think of Maggie Beer’s work to help provide good food for all? Let us know in the comments section below.