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Two cooks standing in hostel kitchen.

Healthy and nutritious meals are an important ingredient in Aboriginal Hostels Limited’s (AHL) recipe for providing culturally safe accommodation at our hostels.

Over the past year, our 2 Accredited Practicing Dietitians, have been developing tailored recipes, inspired by First Nations cultures, across our hostels.

‘Our new menus will consider the needs of residents at each hostel and better support health outcomes, particularly for those receiving renal and other medical services. We want to make sure they taste and look good, as well as being nutritious,’ they said.

To achieve their goals, they devised 28-day menus appropriate for our 3 types of hostels: multipurpose, health and medical, and secondary education

Residents at each hostel type have different nutritional requirements. For example, fast-growing secondary students have different needs, compared to residents at our health and medical hostels. New mothers and babies, or renal patients also have very specific dietary needs. The meals have also been designed to ensure they are ‘diabetes friendly’ and have less sugar content. The refreshed cuisine also reflects the food preferences of the local First Nations community.

The new menus meet the standards set out in the Australian guide to healthy eating. They cover all the food groups, advise on the recommended number of serves and contain optimal nutritional levels.

To find all the recipes they needed for the new meal plans, our dietitians asked our cooking teams for resident favourites to ensure local preferences and cultural requirements were considered. Once they had a collection of suitable recipes, all were reviewed and adapted to ensure they met the necessary standards. Chefs from William Angliss Institute in Sydney supported the dietitians to perfect the recipes and provided a commercial cooking space for recipe development.  The dietitians were also supported by Aboriginal Chef Matthew Atkins, from 100% Aboriginal owned catering company Plate Events & Catering, to identify herbs and spices to use in the recipes.

In March 2024, our dietitians spent a day at Alyerre Hostel in Alice Springs and also spent time at other hostels to ‘road test’ recipes with residents and staff. The results were positive.  The menus are now being rolled out to each hostel to test with their individual resident base to ensure we are hitting the mark in taste and resident preferences. The menu plans have also been shared with local dietitians supporting our residents.

Each hostel will be provided with their own personalised menu and recipes so hostel staff can easily roll out the new 28-day menus. AHL is also offering more flexible meal arrangements for residents who are not at the hostel during meal hours and has set up complimentary healthy snack stations to ensure nutritious nibblies are always on hand.

The introduction of these improvements was made possible through funding received in the 2023–24 Federal Budget, with the 2-year project funding the Accredited Practicing Dietitians and increased food budgets. AHL has also rolled out food safety supervisor training across the hostel network to meet new national standards in food safety. 

The refreshed, healthy meal plans are another way that AHL serves its residents, in line with our values of providing not only physical facilities, but also a supportive environment.