Great innovation, that we can learn from and replicate, takes place everywhere, not just in other health care settings. Similar services are being delivered across sectors and industries, and there is loads of great practice, adapted to suit local, specific and diverse situations, that we can learn from, adapt and adopt.

In this lovely article, food expert and restaurant critic Jay Raynor visits Queensmill, a west London school for children with autism. Here he meets Brazilian chef Djalma Lucio Polli de Carvalho (known as Lucio for short), who has revolutionised the school dinner service, so that the food is adapted to the very specific needs of the school’s pupils. This is not just a food revolution based upon providing great food from fresh ingredients; Lucio has created a food service that caters to the specific requirements for students with autism.

We all need a varied, nutritious, balanced diet to stay healthy, but for many people, eating can be a real struggle. This can especially be so for people who have sensory conditions. Eating well is very important to overall health and not getting a sufficient diet can lead to further health problems. Food can also be a hugely emotional issue. Ensuring our loved ones eat well is a huge element of care, and when they aren’t eating well or at all, it can be worrying and heart-breaking.

And yet, not eating properly can so often be seen as ‘just the way it is’ or a symptom of specific conditions. Ensuring everyone gets a good diet can be time consuming and need a lot of thought and planning, but adapting diet and food service to suit the diner can be done and doing this can have huge impacts for mental and physical health. Queensmill’s leaders and chef recognised that their food services could be adapted to ensure the pupils get the food they want and need, and they have worked together to deliver delicious, nutritious food, suitable for the very specific requirements of their pupils.

There is so much we can learn from this article, practically and culturally: I love the gentleness and compassion shown to these young people and to the staff who look after them; they all their own personal requirements that need to be met for them to feel comfortable eating; the support of leadership is key; and change is not imposed. “He notes what goes well, but then adapts it just a little so that gentle change is introduced…. At the same time he has to avoid being precious. He does small portions for those who aren’t sure but might come back, and is ready with hefty seconds for those who are. And he has to be prepared for those who might reject absolutely everything he has on offer.”

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