Food Package Openability

Accessing food and water in hospital is a critical component of care. To access food, you first need to access your cutlery, and to drink the water, you must be able to open the plastic bottle. Food Openability examines the interaction of the person, the environment and food & beverage packaging.

Australia’s ageing population has seen an increase in older long-stay hospital patients. 50% of beds are occupied by patients staying longer than 14 days or more, while approximately 34% patients stay more than 28 days.

Research conducted at The Canberra Hospital, has found opening the cutlery packaging and water bottles is both frustrating and difficult for patients. Thanks to this research, the cutlery will be changed and the water bottles replaced with water jugs – a benefit for the older patient and the environment, aligning with the ‘Living well longer’ theme of funding for this research.

This research aims to ultimately inform and influence the design of hospital and retail food and beverages, cost effectiveness in terms of dietary intakes and nutritional status, enhance packaging engagement for consumers, as well as inform health policy in regards to food service delivery and nutrition support in healthcare.

Outcomes and Publications

Exploring "openability" of hospital food and beverage packaging by "well elderly". Abstract presented at The Fourth International Conference on Food Studies, 20-21 October 2014, Prato, Italy. (2016).

Bell, A., Walton, K., Chevis, J. & Yoxall, A. (2014). Exploring "openability" of hospital food and beverage packaging by "well elderly". Fourth International Conference on Food Studies (p. 29). Champaign, United States: Common Ground Publishing.

Bell, A., Walton, K. & Tapsell, L. (2016). Easy to open? Exploring the ‘openability’ of hospital food and beverage packaging by older adults. Appetite, 98, pp.125-132. (2016). Is packaging for the elderly the next untapped market?. [online] [Accessed 7 Oct. 2016].

In the media

The team

This project brings together the disciplines of nutrition and dietetics,occupational therapy, ergonomics and industrial design.

Dr Alison Bell is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, with the School of Health and Society with her qualifications in Occupational Therapy and Ergonomics.

Prof Karen Walton is a Professor in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health in the School of Nutrition and Medicine. She has qualification in nutrition and dietetics and much of her research focuses on nutrition support and the older adult via food service dietetics.

Dr Alaster Yoxall is a design fellow at the Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom. Dr Yoxall's centre, Lab4Living focuses on research expertise in health, rehabilitation, design, engineering, ergonomics and user-led design.  He is recognised internationally as a leader in the field of packaging research and has been instrumental in developing international standards for accessible packaging and panel test methods.  He is also a technical expert on CEN and ISO committees.

Jacqueline Chevis is an Occupational Therapist and Hand Therapist working in the Wollongong Hospital and in private practice.

This project is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals