But they can be a challenge for the people who prepare the meals. Most personal care homes in Georgia are small, with 15 or fewer people. It's like cooking for a big family of people with widely varied dietary needs.
"Nutritious meals and snacks are an important part of maintaining good health and managing chronic diseases," said Elizabeth Andress. "Food is a source of personal pleasure, too. And meals and snacks offer times for socialization."
Andress is an Extension Service food, nutrition and health scientist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences. She led a team of extension authors in writing the "Food Service Manual for Use in Personal Care Homes," a nutrition and meal-planning guide just being released.
"We wrote the manual to be a quick, useful handbook for those who plan, prepare and serve food in small personal care homes," Andress said. It focuses both on good nutrition and on food safety.
The manual came out of a project of UGA Extension agents in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. The agents had all trained metro Atlanta personal care home providers for many years.
In 1996, the agents received the Kraft Media Grant from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences to fund the project.
Andress and the agent team wrote the manual. UGA foods and nutrition faculty reviewed it. So did professionals in the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program of Georgia, the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Georgia Department of Human Resources.
Finally, a number of personal care homes in the three Atlanta counties used a draft of the manual for four to five weeks. A focus group from those providers gave feedback for last-minute improvements.
At $10, the manual comes as a three-hole-punched loose-leaf notebook without a binder. It has chapters on nutrition and meal planning. It gives tips for feeding people with a range of special problems. It tells how to save money buying foods, and how to buy, prepare and store foods safely.
The guide tells how to prepare for long power failures. It even includes a section of weights, measures, substitutions and other helps for using or changing recipes.
To order the manual, contact your county Extension Service office. Or call (706) 542-8999.
(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)