VfL launches Special Dietary Network for care settings

Charity Vegetarian for Life (VfL) hosted the inaugural meeting of its Special Dietary Network in Parliament in May to discuss how to respect dietary needs in care settings.

The discussion, which included contributions from expert speakers, looked at how, when it comes to the varying diets of people in care, there ought to be a common goal of defending individuals’ dietary autonomy.

Anna Boardman of VfL set out the findings of her systematic literature review regarding diet and identity, emphasising the centrality of diet to our sense of self, while Nitin Mehta, an expert on India’s spiritual heritage and vegetarianism and veganism, focused on the complexities of Jain culinary requirements.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain talked about Jewish dietary requirements and connections with identity, with food acting as a ‘daily reminder’ of the latter, and Yasmin Surti, of the Federation of Muslim Organisations in Leicestershire, spoke about some of the subtleties of the relationship between food and culture in different Islamic communities, and how these are often not respected in care settings.

A video presentation by Dr Karan Jutlla focused on Sikh dietary requirements, while dementia campaigner Beth Britton talked about the importance of finding different ways to communicate with people living with dementia, such as through life stories, so that we can know the person and thus begin to meet their needs, dietary and otherwise.

Moussa Haddad, head of research & policy at VfL, said: “The Special Dietary Network event in Parliament showed how, for all that our exact dietary, religious or cultural requirements might vary, we all fundamentally need and want the same things as we get older – to have our autonomy protected, and to be treated with respect. We look forward to continuing to work with the many faiths and organisations represented at the event, and hope that together we can change things for the better."

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