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New program offers more food choices for Abbotsford hospital patients

Choice Dining features app and in-person assistants who help at bedside
Lydia Aziz is a menu assistant with the new Choice Dining program at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Fraser Health photo)

Thanks to a new program called Choice Dining, patients at Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) now have more food choices.

Patients on two units can now pre-order food using an app or by speaking to a menu assistant at their bedside.

Kaitlin Wilkie, director of food operations, said the previous process involved taking patients’ food preferences.

“But this wasn’t very flexible and sometimes restricted more items than necessary,” she said.

“We wanted to ensure patients can see all their options and are empowered to choose foods they like. This minimizes food waste, as patients are more likely to enjoy the meals they select.”

Choice Dining was first launched as a pilot project at Royal Columbian Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital in spring 2023.

The new process allows patients and their families to remotely select meals, “providing a seamless and user-friendly experience,” Wilkie said.

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While the app appeals to tech-savvy patients and family members, a menu assistant can help in person with meal selections. Wilkie said the assistant option is currently being used more widely than the app because the assistants come directly to the bedside.

“The app appeals to younger patients and loved ones who can remotely choose meals on behalf of a patient from any compatible device,” she said.

She said the food operations team believes the program will improve patients’ dining experiences while reducing malnutrition and food waste.

“Often, a lot of uneaten food comes back on trays. We are looking at reducing waste, and the literature supports that one way to reduce that is to give patients a choice in what they’re eating.”

Choice Dining is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner in specific hospital units and excludes patients on certain diets. However, Wilkie said the food operations team is working on increasing their offerings by adding a wider variety of diets in the future.

Plans are underway to expand Choice Dining across units at ARH and other hospitals in the Fraser Health region.

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