Pasifika Influences on Menus in Aged Care

Pasfika foods in agedcare facilities

New Zealand is home to many Pacific people, with Auckland being home to the largest population of Pacific people in the world. They are from Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue, the Fiji Islands, Tuvalu, Tukelau and the Solomon Islands.

Food is central to all Pacific cultures and is a significant aspect of feasting and celebrations. Food is seen as something to enjoy rather than a source of nutrients to keep the body healthy.

Traditional food is still very much an integral part of major occasions, however, it is often consumed on a daily basis, especially by older Pacific people. Food is a vehicle for communicating customs, a standard of wealth, and is a symbolic mediator in defining kinship and social relationships. Giving and providing food is an important way to show love and respect, to share, to express hospitality and to bring people together. However, it is important to appreciate the differences in the intensity of the relationship with food among the different Pacific cultures. Therefore it is important that the Catering manager/chef/cook checks the specific requirements of their Pacific clients.

Foods enjoyed by Pacific groups include:
Starchy vegetables and root crops, which are mainly boiled or baked and eaten for lunch or dinner,e.g. taro, cassava, tapioca, yam, green banana, plantain and breadfruit.

Breakfast or dessert items such as flour-based products, e.g. dumplings [Topai or Kopai], cocoa rice, poke, rice with coconut cream [steamed pudding] and roti.

Meat and alternatives including beef [pulu or povi], mutton flaps [sipi or mamoe],Salted beef povi or pula masima], corned beef [kapa pulu, pisupo], pork [puaka or pua’a], canned fish [kapa ika], apap eleni], seafood, chicken.

Fruits and vegetables; traditional leafy vegetables such as taro leaves or hibiscus leaves are now grown in New Zealand and some are imported. Alternatives to use in New Zealand include silverbeet, cabbage and puha.

Pacific Cookery Methods
Starchy vegetables and root crops are either boiled or baked. Meat is sometimes cooked with vegetables as soups, stews, boil-ups and chop suey. Sometimes meat is wrapped in taro leaves, placed in a dish and covered with coconut cream and baked or steamed.

Catering Considerations
Pacific people are at high risk of chronic lifestyle diseases, especially Type 2 diabetes - therefore the menu should avoid high sugar, high fat and sodium-rich foods or keep them to a minimum by, for example, boiling meats without adding extra fat and skimming the fat off the top before serving. Other food items can be modified by using familiar food items that Pacific people traditionally enjoy.