Nutrition and Hydration Week 2019 - Student dietitians join HILS in delivering meals on wheels!

With over 18,000 older Hertfordshire residents living in the community at risk of malnutrition, student dietitians teamed up with HILS community team members to meet our clients and find out more.

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Ten students from the University of Hertfordshire swapped classrooms for cottage pie, as they braved the wet weather to deliver meals on wheels and celebrate Nutrition and Hydration Week, running from March 11th to 17th.

Thousands of organisations across the world are getting involved with the international campaign, hosting an array of events including a Global Tea Party. The campaign aims to raise awareness and educate the public on the importance of nutrition and hydration in maintaining good health.

Malnutrition is often overlooked as a significant health issue in the UK, despite costing the NHS and social care an estimated £200 million per annum – according to BAPEN (the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition). Around one in ten older people in the UK are believed to be at risk of malnutrition, with 93% of those affected living in the community.

HILS has been delivering meals on wheels for over a decade and has built on its trusted brand and connections with older people to set up an entirely free nutrition and dietetics service. Our specialists visit people in their homes to help them retain or regain a healthy stable weight, and supply free nutritious snacks.

‘As the county’s main meals on wheels provider, we feel that HILS has a big role to play in teaching people just how important eating and drinking enough is for older people.’ Says Sarah Wren, HILS Chief Executive.

Sarah adds: ‘Our nutrition and wellbeing team come across so many people who struggle to keep the weight on as they get older, but all the public health messages we see are about weight loss. Getting the next generation of dietitians to come out with us and see first-hand the barriers our clients are facing is a fantastic opportunity to change things for the better!’

As the students eagerly donned high-visibility jackets in preparation for joining HILS meals drivers, they reflected on why they thought it was important to get out into the community.

‘It’s a great service, because the clients get to know the drivers and they open up to them. They were really happy to see me and so thankful for my help in plating up their meal. It was great to get some hands-on experience,’ said student Sophia Jakovleva.

Daniel Amps-Woodward agreed, ‘I feel like I’ve gained a better understanding of the people that use HILS and the challenges they face. It’s great to know this type of service is out there because it could be so beneficial for people coming out of clinical care.’

Over the past year, HILS and other significant local actors – such as the University of Hertfordshire and Public Health Hertfordshire – have been leaders in a national movement to recognise and prevent malnutrition among older people. In October 2018, the first ever national Malnutrition Awareness Week was celebrated across the United Kingdom. In Hertfordshire, volunteers manned over 20 screening points where people could be weighed and obtain information about staying healthy.

HILS meals services include Tea and Breakfast food packs , emergency food and grocery bags, and home from hospital bags containing three days’ worth of food and toiletries. In addition to meals, HILS provides a range of community services designed to keep people happy, healthy and independent in their homes for as long as possible – these include: dementia support services, tailored exercise sessions delivered in clients’ homes, and installing key safes.

About Malnutrition

Malnutrition refers to a condition that stems from consuming a diet low in key nutrients. Low body weight due to unintentional weight loss can be a sign of malnutrition. Although anyone can become malnourished, those aged 65 and above are at a greater risk than others, often due to immobility or a reduced appetite. Without intervention malnutrition can lead to a weaker immune system, muscle weakness and a higher risk of falls and fractures.

About Nutrition and Hydration Week

Nutrition and Hydration Week has taken place every March since 2012. Its purpose is to bring people together to create energy, focus and fun in order to highlight and educate people on the value of food and drink in maintaining health and wellbeing in health and social care.