18th July, 2012
A HELPING HAND: From small beginnings, Meals on Wheels now deliver almost 15 million meals annually in Australia. PICTURE: © Catherine Yeulet/www.istockphoto.com
Meals on Wheels celebrates 50 years of operation in Australia this year, so we thought it was a good idea to take a look at how it all began.
The concept of of Meals on Wheels originated in the UK during World War II. People who lost homes in the Blitz found themselves unable to prepare meals and so were the recipients of meals delivered by the Women's Volunteer Service for Civil Defence (although the name 'Meals on Wheels' was apparently first used for the WVS' related work in taking meals to servicemen).
Following the war, the idea was picked up by groups of volunteers who began delivering meals to the housebound elderly and soon spread across the world to countries including Australia, the US and Canada.
It started in Australia in 1952 when an un-named woman started delivering meals by tricycle in South Melbourne (the Red Cross became involved when the job became too much for her). The idea subsequently spread across the country.
There are now locally operated Meals and Wheels schemes in action across the country backed by state level organisations with more than 14.8 million meals delivered annually to about 53,000 recipients.
More than 78,000 volunteers work out of 740 local branches, taking meals to frail older people and younger people with disabilities as well as their carers and other people who are unable to get their own meals, including the recently hospitalised.
According to the website of Meals on Wheels Australia, meals are provided at production cost and range in price from $ 4.50 to $9.
If you'd like to get involved as a volunteer, head to Meals on Wheels Australia and follow the links to the relevant state body.
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