All Dried Up - The Story
It's as simple as toast and tea!
In early September 2020, Aangen’s Kitchen Services division embarked on a new journey, experimenting with recipes for healthy, home-cooked meals for seniors, that could be easily prepared simply by adding boiling water.
Aangen had been brainstorming ways to support seniors in the community, for many years. This issue is of personal importance for many on the Aangen team who have had first hand experience supporting aging family members. The idea was originally conceived during a strategy session with one of our partners, an expert on senior care. Our friend pointed out that many seniors live on a diet of ‘tea and toast’, stating that food preparation is time consuming and appetites can be limited. She postulated that
“delicious and nutritious food that is as simple as making a cup of tea would greatly benefit this community.”
When COVID hit, Aangen, like many other small businesses, had to pivot our services. Thanks to the Emergency Community Support Funding from the Canadian Government and facilitated through the Canadian Red Cross, we were able to start on this journey.
We were excited to get things on the roll and we started planning a full menu of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The learning curve was steep. Not only was the kitchen team learning to implement a manufacturing model, we also needed to understand the science of dehydrating and reconstituting food.
“The Niagara Gleaners were a wealth of knowledge, they helped us figure out the science and processes.”
They dehydrate large quantities of raw, donated vegetables to send to food programs worldwide. Soon into the experimentation phase we realized (for best results) our meals needed to be prepared and cooked before dehydrating each batch.
We decided to focus on a lunch menu first, experimenting with recipes for tasty soups (it was, after all, the beginning of fall). It took time to settle on a menu that would suit the palette of an older demographic. We brought a nutritionist on board to confirm that the dietary needs of seniors were being met. She ensured the recipes are high quality, nutritionally dense and heart healthy (low-sodium). The kitchen team made sure the finished product is as tasty as it is healthy. The final step before market was our favorite step - The taste testers! We worked with seniors in local programs like LA Centre and Parkdale Community Food Bank to get their feedback, and it was such an enlightening experience.
Multiple factors have been taken into consideration. Specifically the dietary needs of older Canadians, but also extra care is put into measuring the powder to ensure that the reconstituted soup texture is suitable for those who may have trouble swallowing. The packaging needed to be easy to open to ensure arthritis flareups were taken into account, and the labels adhere to CNIB low vision guidelines.
“The stars aligned and All Dried Up was launched to market in February 2021.”
It’s a serious product, but you can’t be serious all the time. All Dried Up is a little pun, poking fun at the fact that the meals are fully dehydrated (dried) after being prepared in small batches. At info sessions, the reception from stakeholders has been really positive.
As part of the All Dried Up project, Aangen is partnered with the Parkdale Community Food Bank (PCFB), and with the sale of every meal, we are supporting seniors in the food bank’s grocery delivery program.
Together Aangen and PCFB applied for and have been awarded the Allan Slaight Seniors Fund (through the United Way). This support will empower us to grow the business and expand our donations to the PCFB for the next 5 years.
Stay tuned for more coming out of our kitchen… Dinners and breakfasts are scheduled to be added to the menu later this year.