Almost every day, more than 15,000 people throughout New South Wales are helped by about 190 local Meals on Wheels/Food Service organisations. At last count, just over 35,000 volunteers were regularly giving their time and skills to this essential community service. A manager or coordinator is employed by most organisations to manage the running of local services and some with their own kitchens, who also pay for the services of cooks whom willing volunteers often assist. Whether paid staff or unpaid volunteers, the passion to help and bring care and respect into each and every client's life is the same.
Clients receive a nutritious and tasty meal, delivered by volunteers who have time for a friendly chat. Services work to meet clients' individual needs, across differences in; culture, diet, religion, medical condition, language, physical ability and personal taste. Increasingly, Meals on Wheels services offer:
- Delivery of frozen and cook-chilled food, in place of hot, to allow choice of when to eat the meal.
- Expansion of the range of food products taken into the home to include breakfast and snack items, and finger food menus for clients with reduced mobility or appetite.
- Special menus and culturally appropriate delivery arrangements for particular community groups, especially centre-based meal programs to bring together clients of a particular ethnic background.
- Regular opportunities for clients to come together for a meal at a central location, sometimes including social activities such as discussion groups, readings, card games or physical exercises.
- Various forms of assistance with food shopping, for clients who want to prepare their own meals, and the giving of lessons in how to prepare easy, delicious meals for one.
As well as helping meet clients' nutritional needs, Meals on Wheels provides regular social contact and community involvement to clients and volunteers alike. It is at the very heart of what a local community is all about.