Improving food and nutrition in aged care

We are committed to improving food and nutrition in aged care. We are making changes to improve the quality of life for older people living in Australia through a range of food and nutrition initiatives.

About the changes

We are increasing transparency and accountability in aged care to improve food and nutrition.

These changes are part of our response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety's final report. It identified food and nutrition as a key area for urgent review.

Why the changes are important

Access to nutritionally suitable food is a basic human right. Food, drink and the dining experience can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life.

Older people also:

  • need higher levels of some key nutrients, such as protein and calcium
  • can experience changes to their taste, smell, and appetite, which can affect their food intake.

Without intervention and support, these factors can lead to malnutrition.

Our goals

We aim to ensure older people in aged care receive nutritious food and positive dining experiences to:

  • prevent malnutrition
  • help maintain a high quality of life.

We expect aged care providers to engage with older people to provide:

  • choice around meal types and times
  • nutritious and appetising meals (including for texture modified diets)
  • support to consume as much food and drink as they want.

Meeting the goals

    A new food unit to provide expert advice

    The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is setting up a new Food, Nutrition and Dining Advisory Support Unit to:

    • provide expert food advice to consumers and providers
    • link providers to education programs
    • set up a food hotline
    • refer for up to 500 menu and mealtime assessments annually to be completed by dietitians
    • coordinate up to 720 provider spot checks annually, with 10% of the highest risk checks to include dietitians
    • engage Dementia Australia to promote nutrition and food enjoyment for people with dementia.

    To find out more, see the ministerial media release about the new unit.

    Workforce education and training

    To help upskill the aged care sector, the Australian Government provided a one-off $5 million grant to the Maggie Beer Foundation.

    The Improving Food through Education and Training program is for key aged care staff such as cooks, chefs and food service staff. It will:

    • provide education and training on how to source, prepare and serve more nutritious and delicious food
    • help support the sector to meet the new draft Standard 6.

    Training and education opportunities for residential aged care services will be available from the second half of 2023 to 2026.

    Sector resources

    We are funding the development of new dietary guidelines and resources for healthy older people. These guidelines will support good nutritional intake and reduce malnutrition risk.

    A new food standard for residential aged care

    We have included a dedicated food and nutrition standard in the draft strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards. The expectation statement for older people in the Food and Nutrition Standard (Standard 6) is:

    I receive plenty of food and drinks that I enjoy. Food and drinks are appetising, nutritious and safe, and meet my needs and preferences. The dining experience is enjoyable, includes variety and supports a sense of belonging.

    The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is piloting Standard 6. Once implemented, we expect all aged care providers in Australia to comply with this standard.

    Find out more about the:

    Star Ratings for residential aged care

    Food and nutrition affect the Star Ratings for residential aged care. The Star Rating is based on 4 sub-categories that includes data relevant to food and nutrition:

    • Resident experience surveys – each year, we ask around 20% of residents (or their representatives) “do you like the food here?”
    • Compliance – includes regulatory activity by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission related to food and nutrition standards.
    • Staffing – the reported time (in minutes) personal care workers spend helping residents to eat.
    • Quality measures – includes measures that are affected by food and nutrition.

    To view Star Ratings for providers in your area, use the Find a provider tool.

    Additional funding to support nutritious food in residential aged care

    We fund residential aged care providers to support the delivery of nutritious and appetising food.

    The hotelling supplement of $10.80 per day will help approved providers of residential aged care to meet hotelling costs from 1 July 2023. This includes costs for employing staff for services, such as catering.

    Previously, residential aged care services received the Basic Daily Fee (BDF) supplement to deliver better care to residents, with a focus on food and nutrition.

    Multi-Purpose Services (MPS) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program (NATSIFACP) services will continue to receive separate BDF supplement equivalent amounts. They are not eligible to receive the hotelling supplement.

    To find out about BDF supplement and food and nutrition reporting, see:

    Reporting requirements

    Quarterly reporting

    All residential aged care providers must report on food and nutrition through the Quarterly Financial Report (QFR). The reporting covers:

    • allied health costs and hours
    • food preparation model and catering type and location
    • food catering costs, including whether food and ingredients are classified as ‘fresh’
    • food preparation hours
    • number of available bed days (MPS and NATSIFACP only).

    Providers can view the QFR food and nutrition reporting explanatory notes to help them complete their report.

    Contact us if you have questions about these reporting requirements.

    Referring providers who spend less than $10 per resident per day on food

    We refer residential aged care services who report spending less than $10 per resident per day in their food and nutrition reporting to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

    The commission will decide an appropriate action after considering this and other information such as:

    • complaints
    • residents’ experience data
    • quality indicator data.

      Quality indicators for residential aged care

      Approved providers of residential aged care services must report data to the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program every 3 months.

      Food and nutrition can affect the following quality indicators:

      • pressure injuries
      • unplanned weight loss
      • consecutive unplanned weight loss
      • falls and major injury.

      This data provides evidence to providers to help improve the quality of their services.

      Support for individuals and families

      If you are an aged care resident, read the food, dining and nutrition resources for consumers to know what to expect from your food and dining experience.

      If you have concerns about your or a loved one's food and dining experience, you can contact the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.


      Related topic

      Residential aged care


      Aged care food and nutrition reporting requirements contact

      Contact us if you have questions about aged care nutrition reporting requirements.
      Date last updated:

      Help us improve

      If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.