Mealtime Partners, Inc.

Specializing in Assistive Dining and Drinking Equipment


Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Can a person with a bite reflex use the Mealtime Partner Dining System?

A: Maybe. This is a judgment call based on the severity of the bite reflex. The Mealtime Partner Spoon is shatter proof so that the spoon will not break and cause injury even if it is bitten hard. However, if the bite reflex is prolonged, the Partner will detect that something is holding the spoon and will not retract (until the bite is relaxed). Sometimes during a prolonged hold time, the Partner will display an error message indicating "Spoon Cannot Retract" and will go into the Pause mode. The caregiver should press the Pause button to resume operation after the bite is released.

Also, note that the spoon will require replacement more frequently than usual for persons with a bite reflex.

Q: Why does the food come off of the spoon after it has been picked up?

A: This will happen if the food is too large for the bowl cover that is being used. To correct this, first, try changing to the next size up cover. If you are using the low cover, try the medium cover. If you are using the medium cover try the high cover. If the problem still persists with the high cover, the pieces of food are too large for the Partner to serve. The solution to this problem is to cut the food into smaller pieces. This subject is covered in great detail in the article: What the the Mealtime Partner Can Serve. Please read that article to obtain a good understanding of the food serving capabilities of the Mealtime Partner.

Q: How do I select the appropriate Mealtime Partner Dining System?

A: A Mealtime Partner Dining System consists of the Mealtime Partner Dining Device (which will be referred to as “the Partner”) and mounting hardware to position the Partner for the user. There are three available mounting systems: extension legs, mounting shafts, and the Support Arm. Also, the Partner can, in some cases, be used without any additional mounting hardware because it comes with four feet and can sit on a table top without mounting.

Selecting the appropriate mounting system. The seating and positioning of the person who will use the Partner normally dictates how the system should be mounted. Additional considerations, when selecting the best mounting system are: involuntary body movement, range of motion of the upper body and head, whether the user fatigues easily, and, the environment where it will be used.

Using Legs. If the person using the Partner sits on a regular dining chair or has a seating system that allows them to sit at a table with their knees under the table, mounting the Partner on legs should be considered. (Refer to part no. 6950, the Mealtime Partner Dining System with Legs.)

The extension legs simply replace the short feet that come with the Partner. Extension legs consist of a set of four legs of the following lengths: 2 inches, 4 inches, and 6 inches long (i.e., 12 legs in all). To install the extension legs, unscrew the four original short feet from the Partner, and screw the longer legs onto the same threaded shaft.

The advantages of using legs are that they are inexpensive; they are easy to install and require no further adjustment after being installed; and, they can be interchanged as the user’s positioning changes.

The disadvantages of using legs are that the user must be able to sit at a table to eat with their legs/knees under the table; the user must be able to sit at the table controlling their body position for an entire meal; and, the user must be able to move forward around 4 inches to comfortably use the Partner when it is mounted on legs.

Additionally, when mounting the Partner on legs is appropriate for the user, the environment in which the system is being used should be considered. For example, if the dining system is being used in a school cafeteria, the activities of other students should be considered. If they move around quickly (and roughly, as children will often do), the Partner might be knocked off of the table. Under these circumstances, even though legs are a good mounting choice for the user, it is advisable to use mounting shafts instead, because they allow the Partner to be firmly fixed to the table and thus it is protected from accidentally being knocked off of the table.

Using Mounting Shafts. For many people, their seating system prohibits them from getting close enough to a table to get their knees under it. Because they are seated in powered wheelchairs that are bulky and too high for the arms of the wheelchair to fit under the table, or they require a laptray on their wheelchair for posture or stability, they simply cannot get close to the table edge. For those individuals, and people who have skeletal anomalies that prohibit them from sitting facing forward, mounting the Partner on legs will prohibit them from accessing the device. They should choose either the mounting shafts or the Support Arm. If the user has good trunk and upper body control and movement, using a mounting shaft is the best choice because of the advantages stated below. The appropriate length shaft allows the Partner to be mounted at the correct height for the user. The shaft also allows the Partner to rotate out from the edge of the table so that the spoon is positioned for easy access by the user even though they are sitting out from the table.

The mounting shaft system consists of a single mounting shaft and a Table Clamp that accommodates the shaft. A full set is comprised of five Mounting Shafts, one each of the following lengths: 2 inch, 4 inch, 6 inch, 8 inch and 10 inch. Mounting Shafts work in conjunction with the Mealtime Partner Table Clamp. The Clamp is secured to the edge of the table-top. Once it is attached, the appropriate length Mounting Shaft is installed in the socket on the top of the Clamp. The Partner is mounted on the top of the Shaft. Thumb screws on both the Clamp and the Partner can be tightened to fasten the shaft in place, while still allowing the Partner to rotate on the shaft.

Using a Mounting Shaft to position the Partner is of value to individuals who sit at a table to eat but who have involuntary movement that causes them to move the Partner when it is mounted on legs and placed on the table. Additionally, shaft mounting is useful for those who sit close to a table but whose knees do not go under the table. It is simpler to position than the Support Arm and allows for Partner positioning to be slightly away from the table.

The advantages of using a Mounting Shaft is that a set of mounting shafts is relatively inexpensive and using a shaft is the quickest and easiest mounting method to install (and/or interchange).

The disadvantages of using Mounting Shafts are that they provide rigid mounting. (However, the Partner can still rotate on the shaft, providing some safety if struck by a user, but the shaft itself will be secured rigidly in the table clamp). Secondly, they are only available in 2 inch incremental lengths so the user must adjust to the height that is best for their use. No height adjustment can be made within the 2-inch increment. (Refer to part no. 6900, the Mealtime Partner Dining System with Mounting Shafts.)

Using the Support Arm. Individuals who have limited range of upper body control or who fatigue easily from the effort of controlling their body movement should use the Partner mounted on the Support Arm. The Support Arm allows the Partner to be positioned so that the spoon, when extended out from the device, is positioned very close to the user’s bottom lip. With the Partner positioned this way, the user only has to lean forward slightly to take food off of the spoon, thus the user exerts very little effort and conserves energy.

The primary advantage of using the Support Arm is that it has infinitely variable positioning (within its total range) and can meet the needs of most users regardless of their positioning. The user must only be able to move around an inch forward to get the food off of the spoon. Also, additional safety is provided with the Partner mounted on the Support Arm because it will “break away” should the user fall forward into the dining system. This is appropriate for individuals who have seizure disorders.

The disadvantages of using the Support Arm are that it is the most expensive mounting method, it requires frequent adjustment, it is bulky, and some caregivers find it difficult to position. (Refer to part no. 7000, the Mealtime Partner Dining System with Support Arm.)

Using No Mounting System. Some small children are able to use the Partner without a mounting system. The Partner can simply be placed on the table using the four short feet that come with the device. The child sits on a booster seat or highchair that positions him/her at the appropriate height to eat using the Partner. However, as the child grows, longer legs may be necessary for them to be able to continue using the same table height.

It should be noted that if a child begins to use a wheelchair to fulfill their mobility needs and plans to eat while in their wheelchair, the positioning of the Partner must be reviewed. Sitting in a wheelchair to eat changes the child’s positioning, their seat height and their movement patterns. Therefore the dining system mounting method should be reevaluated at that time. (Refer to part no. 9990, the Mealtime Partner Dining System.)

Q: Can the Mealtime Partner Dining System serve snack foods?

A: The Mealtime Partner Dining System can serve a wide variety of snack foods. They simply have to be broken or cut into small pieces to be served. Potato chips, Cheetos, and other snack chips can be broken into small pieces and served in the Mealtime Partner Dining System. Cookies can similarly be broken into pieces and served. Also, cut up fruit or vegetables make a good snack.

Q: Can a fork be put on the Mealtime Partner Dining System?

A: Two problems must be addressed to make a fork function with a powered dining system. The fork must be inserted into lumps of food, and then must present the piece of food to the user. Reliably being able to stab a piece of food and have the food stay on the fork is quite a challenge for a feeding device. The important word is reliably. It is of little value to a user to be offered an empty fork (or spoon) and this can be very frustrating for them if they are hungry. The engineering challenge for using a fork is to pick up lumps of food with a fork, repeatedly! So far, no one has been able to design a mechanism that can consistently perform this function. Even if this is accomplished, the issue of moving between lumpy food and soft food will then have to be addressed. Also, forks have tines which by design have points and the points can potentially be a danger to the user should they bump into them.


Q: How do I choose which Front Mounted Drinking System to buy?

A: Because the Front Mounted Drinking System can be purchased with 5 different lengths of Flex Arm (6-inch, 12- inch, 18-inch, 24-inch and 30-inch), how to select the appropriate length is sometimes asked. When selecting the most appropriate length Flex Arm, the first step is to decide where the Cup Holder must be positioned to provide comfortable access to a drink for the user. The next step is to identify where on the wheelchair (or table, bed, etc.) the Clamp will be mounted. Measure the distance from the Cup Holder location to the Clamp location and add a few inches. This will give an approximate measurement for the Flex Arm. Choose the length of Flex Arm that is the next size upward, for example if the distance from the Clamp to the Cup Holder is 20 inches choose the 24 inch Flex Arm. The Flex Arm can then be bent into a shape that will reach the correct spot. For more information about the Front Mounted Drinking System please read our article that describes the very versatile Front Mounted Drinking System in great detail, and answers all of your questions about the Front Mounted Drinking System..

Q: Can we try this Drinking System?

Mealtime Partners, Inc. regularly gets inquiries about trying drinking items and returning them if they aren’t appropriate for the individual they are being purchased for. Unfortunately, both Federal and State Health Regulations prohibit drinking systems from being used and then returned. The FDA (i.e., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) is a federal organization that is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Its purpose is to protect our health by the regulation of food products, medications, medical devices, cosmetics, and other consumer items including drinking systems. In addition to FDA regulations, each state has its own rules.

Because we cannot allow trials of our drinking systems we try very hard to help people select the best system for the individual who will use it. Some of the things that need to be considered are:

Can the person drink through a straw? If the answer is not yes, none of our hands-free drinking systems are appropriate because they all require some degree of suction.

If the answer is YES, the following table can assist you in determining which drinking systems are suitable based on the characteristics of the user. A YES in the user profile row of the Table below, indicates that the drinking system listed above is appropriate.



User Profile:

The Drink-Partner

Hospital Bed Hydration System

Front Mounted Drinking System

Hydration Backpack w/tube Positioning

 Hydration Backpack

Has normal suction






Has weaker than normal suction






Does not have enough hand movement to lift a straw to their mouth






Has poor head and chin control






Liquid must be available for many hours without replenishment (capacity)



 (100 oz)

(Capacity varies, usually 12 to 24 oz.)


(50 or 70 oz.)


 (50 or 70 oz.)

Spends the majority of time in bed






Wants to drink a variety of liquids including coffee, soda, etc.







Q: Can the Hydration Backpack with Drink Tube Positioning be used without the Bite Valve?

A: The Bite Valve stops water from spilling out of the Hydration Backpack drink tube. Without the Bite Valve water can easily flow from the tube. This is especially likely if the Flex Tubing, that holds the drink tube in position, is accidentally knocked out of position and the end of the drink tube is pointed downward. Even though some people choose to use the system without the Bite Valve it is not recommended by Mealtime Partners, Inc. (Refer to part no. 6559, the Hydration Backpack with Drinking Tube Positioning for pricing and/or to buy.)

Q: How long is the Hydration Backpack drinking tube?

A: There are two measurements that are significant to the drinking tube: 1) the total length of the drinking tube between the bite-valve (also called the mouthpiece) and where the drinking tube attaches to the bladder; and, 2) the length of the drinking tube that is enclosed in the flexible tubing (or, flex-tube) that holds the drinking tube and bite-valve in position. The total length of the drinking tube is 42 inches (107 cm). The flexible tube is 22 inches (56 cm) long. The mouthpiece assembly, comprised of the on/off valve and the bite-valve, adds another 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length at the user end of the flexible tubing.

Q: How much liquid does the Hydration Backpack bladder hold?

A: The standard Hydration Backpack bladder holds 70 fluid ounces (approximately 2 liters) of water.

Q: Where is the best place to attach the Hydration Backpack with Tube Positioning Clamp to the wheelchair?

A: It is recommended that the clamp be attached to one of the handles of the wheelchair. If the wheelchair does not have handles, the clamp should be attached to the frame of the back of the wheelchair, approximately at the level of the user’s shoulder. This allows the backpack to hang below the level of the bite-valve, avoiding water siphoning out of the bladder after the first sip of water is taken. (The liquid won’t really flow because it is restricted by the bite-valve. However, it might drip a little if the bite-valve is left at a level where siphoning can occur.)

Q: Can ice be put in the Hydration Backpack bladder?

A: Yes, ice can be put in the bladder but it is recommended that no more than a few cubes are put in at one time. If a lot of ice is put into the bladder, it displaces the water that may be needed and may not melt quickly enough to reliably provide a constant supply of water. Additionally, ice makes it more difficult to close the bladder mouth, and causes the bladder to bulge and prevents the backpack from laying flat against the back of the wheelchair. As an alternate to ice, the bladder can be filled with water and chilled prior to use, or simply put chilled water in it.

Q: How do I clean the Hydration Backpack drinking tube and bladder?

A: Each Hydration Backpack system is sent out with full instructions for installation, cleaning and care. These instructions can be viewed at the Mealtime Partners webpage: Mealtime Partners Hydration Backpack Drinking System with Drinking Tube Positioning - Use and Maintenance Instructions. It is important to clean these parts regularly and these instructions are designed to make the process easy and straight forward.

Q: Can hot liquids be drunk from a Hydration Backpack?

A: It is not recommended that anything other than water be put in this drinking system. If the user wishes to drink warm water, simply put room temperature water in the bladder (not hot water). Boiling water will damage the bladder and tubing. For hot drinks like coffee or tea, another drinking system, like the Front Mounted Drinking System, should be used.

Q: Can I drink thickened liquids from the Provale Cup?

A: No, the Provale Cup is designed specifically for dispensing a set amount of thin liquid. It will not function properly with anything other than thin liquid. (Refer to part no. 6340, the Provale Cup for pricing and/or to purchase.)


FAQ's last updated 11-07-17.

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