Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meatloaf Enhancer and the Tragedy of Nursing Home Food

Lately, I’ve had the pleasure of doing some internship hours at a local nursing home.  Or "long-term care facility"; it seems like the term nursing home is frowned upon and/or avoided.  Not sure when that changed.  But anyway, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of nursing home food service.  As you know, elderly adults living in these long-term care facilities get nearly all of their food from the kitchen there.  And now that I've spent a few weeks in the dietary department, I can safely say that I'd rather be dead than subsisting on this non-food garbage for my last remaining years.

Exaggeration?  Absolutely not.  This shit isn't even food.  Example #1...  My first day in the nursing home.  I'm watching the cook prepare some meatloaf for that night's dinner.  He opens a 10 pound package of ground beef and dumps it into the big mixer.  Next, I'm expecting to see some chopped onions, garlic, bread crumbs, eggs, carrots, butter, etc.  You know, the stuff you put in meatloaf.  But NO.  Nothing could have prepared me for the abomination that came next.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Meatloaf Enhancer...

26 oz. of powder, ready to enhance meatloaf on your command.  Just add one packet to 10 pounds of ground beef, put it in the oven, and you're done!  Why use fresh vegetables and real food ingredients when you can get everything you need in a convenient shelf-stable pouch?  Oh god where do I even fucking begin... 

  1. 41 INGREDIENTS!  There are 41 ingredients in this baby, and that's not even including the sub-ingredients that make up the bread crumbs.  That's 41 shelf stable, processed, shit ingredients that not even bottom-feeding bugs would bother eating.  Yet, despite the fact that virtually none of the ingredients on this list are even "food", as I would define it, we are still feeding it to the elderly population at this here nursing home.  How on earth do we expect the residents to live healthy lives on this crap?
  2. PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED OILS!  Plural.  Soy, cottonseed, corn, and/or canola.  I don't think I even need to discuss this one, but hydrogenated vegetable oils are just about the worst thing you can ever put in your body.  And it's the 3rd ingredient in this Meatloaf Enhancer.  That means it's the 3rd most plentiful ingredient by weight, and that's a fucking problem.
  3. HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP!  As the 2nd ingredient.  What is sugar doing up so high in the list?  And let's not forget the sneaky, little trick the food industry plays with sugar... they'll use several sweeteners so they can list them all separately and avoid listing any one of them 1st!  If you read the list, honey, molasses, and sugar are also listed.  Who knows what would happen if they only used one sweetener.
  4. NO ADDED MSG!  Okay, but one of the ingredients is "hydrolyzed soy protein", which contains MSG even though it doesn't need to be labeled as such.  So yes, RC Fine-fucking-Foods, you DID add MSG.  I know this is one of the last ingredients and the amount of MSG is probably negligible, but nevertheless, I just love pointing out food label bullshit.

And here's another thing.  My classmates and I figured out the nutrition facts for this Meatloaf Enhancer, and we compared it to a recipe we found online called Mom's Basic Meatloaf.  It turned out, Enhanced Meatloaf had less calories, fat, and sodium than the homemade meatloaf.  

This pleases the dietitian, because calories, fat, and sodium are all that matter in food (extreme sarcasm).  And the food service director is pleased because using Meatloaf Enhancer saves prep time and ultimately saves money.  In the end, everybody's happy.  Everybody except the nursing home residents when they die prematurely.  And me, because it drives me up a fucking wall that this Meatloaf Enhancer even exists, let alone that it's served to our elderly population and passed off as food.   

And this is just one example of the piss-poor food quality at long-term care facilities.  Rest assured, there's more.  There's the prepackaged garlic bread covered in trans fat, the canned everything, the Gravy Master gravy, the worst possible quality meats...  No, Meatloaf Enhancer isn't the exception, it's the rule.  In fact, the food service director I worked with told me he feeds each patient for a total of $3.00 a day.  A TOTAL. Of $3.00 per day.  That's $1.00 per meal.  There's nothing quality about a $1.00 meal, no matter how you slice it.  And this, or course, opens a whole new bag of worms about budget and money, but I'm not going there right now.  There are a lot of factors at play here, but for the purposes of this article, I just want everyone to understand how abysmal the food is in these facilities.  This is not the type of food people live long, healthy lives on.  Not even close.

I will leave you with this nugget of wisdom.

Here's to hoping you're not made of Meatloaf Enhancer.


  1. Holy cats I like this post! It really does not make me excited for food service though.

    I especially enjoyed the part about hydrogenated vegetable oils and how they are a fucking problem. I don't understand how people don't see that they are a problem.

    Mostly, I can't believe that this exists and it makes me very concerned with where our world is going.

  2. Wow. That is pretty nuts. And a really good blog Burn. Maybe it's because its profanity laced and I understand/know every word you wrote (all those large nutritional terms go over my head way too much). I figured the food service wasn't a top 5 restaurant at a nursing home (opps, long term care facility) but didn't think it would be on par with dog food. Not sure if I could let my grandmother's ever live/eat at one of those facilities.

  3. Finally had the chance to read this post. Awesome man!

    I have to say...with the way we've been eating for the last few years (basically since Italy for me), I can't even comprehend how gross that Meatloaf Enhancer is. I think I would be on the shitter for 3 weeks if I had a slice.

    Interesting about the liver. So basically I can go out everyday and get mind bogglingly drunk until i'm close to liver failure...and then recoop for 5 months and be back up & running. Hmm. Maybe something to consider for my next n=1 experiment.

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