We’ve all heard jokes about the quality of hospital food, but for those who have cultural dietary requirements, it’s no laughing matter. Because the three meals a day, snacks and hot drinks patients on a standard hospital menu receive can start to look like a gourmet banquet compared to the cultural alternatives.
Those who observe kosher, for example, are expected to subsist on two defrosted meals per day from a limited menu. With no kosher option for breakfast, that means Jewish patients miss out on a meal when they need all the nutrition they can get.
And with no available kosher hot drinks or snacks, a hospital stay is even more demoralising for a Jewish person than it has to be.
During the pandemic, when relatives were no longer allowed into hospitals to visit their loved ones, patients couldn’t even supplement their hospital diets with cultural foods brought in from home.
Most experts would agree that a good diet while in hospital makes a big difference to a patient’s outlook. Sick people need fresh food to fight infection, replace lost nutrients, and help their bodies repair and rebuild. And let’s not forget the morale boost a hearty meal can bring someone who is out of their comfort zone, in a bed on a ward full of strangers.
Cultural food needs to be part of the NHS care plan menu.
The NHS currently caters for hundreds of thousands of people every year. They provide full and varied menus for those who are diabetic, lactose intolerant, vegan and vegetarian, yet when it comes to cultural foods, such as kosher, there is still much work to be done.
Being hospitalised is a shock to the system on its own, but when that is combined with a lack of access to familiar cultural food, the risk of malnutrition, slowed recovery, or even a sudden decline in health increases dramatically.
This is why Bedside Kosher exists. We provide free fresh kosher meals, snacks and drinks to Jewish patients throughout the UK. But when it comes to changing the bigger picture, we are also working with the NHS on their hospital food review committee, to provide expertise and recommendations on how they can improve their cultural menu.
We are not there yet, but I believe the success of Bedside Kosher has shone a light on the limitations of the NHS’ cultural food provisions. However, I won’t rest until all Jewish patients throughout the UK can receive the kind of fresh, healthy diet that they need to maximise their chance of recovering from illness and injury.
It’s an ambitious goal, but one that is important and worthwhile, and we are already well on the way to achieving it. Until then, we will continue to take orders, and keep delivering to those who require our services.