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HomeLifestyleA happy Chrissy for all

A happy Chrissy for all

Manly Meals On Wheels has been hosting affordable Christmas lunches for senior citizens the past week, bringing together some of our more isolated residents.

Meals on Wheels Australia, the community charity that provides meals to the elderly and advocates on their behalf, also recently celebrated their 70 years of service.

Made up of more than 590 ‘grassroots’ services across the country, Meals on Wheels is the national peak body for community meal service providers and supports over 200,000 older Australians every year.

The Manly service, which is based in the Manly Seniors Centre in Keirle Park (on the south side of Manly Lagoon), has been operating for 58 years.

Manly Observer dropped in to the centre at 275 Pittwater Rd to visit the Christmas Party, and spoke to Food Services Coordinator, Tom Miles, about the logistics of this critical operation.

Tom Miles, Food Services Coordinator of Manly Meals on Wheels at Manly Seniors Centre. Photo: Alec Smart

Tom, a former board member of Manly Vale Football Club for 28 years, has been involved with Meals On Wheels for two decades.

Tom coordinates a large team of dedicated volunteers, including cooks, caterers, cleaners, carers and the all-important delivery drivers who take the nutritionally-balanced meals direct to people’s homes.

Tom explained that they undertake four runs a day home-delivering the food, which is cooked fresh on the premises, serving up to 240 clients, with chilled and frozen meals delivered at 9am and hot meals delivered at midday.

He also revealed the Manly facility utilises over 90 active volunteers, some of whom have been helping for over 40 years. In 2022-23 they delivered more than 20,000 meals to older people in the Northern Beaches community, averaging 400-450 meals per week.

The Manly operation has been growing for the last two years and is continuing to deliver even more meals each week as demand for the service continues to rise. Volunteers are always welcome to join.

Janice, a volunteer with Meals on Wheels, serves Xmas lunch at the Manly Seniors Centre. Photo: Alec Smart


Meals on Wheels was founded in Britain during World War II by the Women’s Volunteer Service for Civil Defence (WVS, now known as the Royal Voluntary Service).

Whilst the nation was being continuously bombed by the invading German Air Force, the WVS provided a range of support services, including food canteens, clothing relief, the billeting and ongoing care of millions of children evacuated to the countryside, and the delivery of meals to house-bound frail and elderly people.

The first use of the phrase ‘Meals on Wheels’ applied to a food relief delivery to a home in Welwyn Garden City (a town in Hertfordshire, 30km north of London) in December 1943.

According to a historic report, they began as a reaction to the 1943 Influenza epidemic, providing meals for the elderly and the sick, and after Welwyn they were trialled from November 1944 in the neighbouring town of Letchworth, before the pioneering enterprise was rolled out nationally

The scheme was a success, and continued after the end of WWII. By June 1947, “38 centres were serving meals to old people and there were eleven centres where WVS are assisting other organisations to carry out similar schemes.”

A number of participating restaurants and cafés supplied the food, although “in some instances, the meals are cooked by WVS in kitchens equipped by WVS…

“By 1956 one million meals a year were being delivered in 320 areas and by 1962 four million meals were being served in 790 areas.”

Mrs Watts delivers hot meals to the South Melbourne slums on her ‘butcher’s bike’, c1953.

In 1953 Meals On Wheels was launched in Australia by a Mrs E Watts, who pedalled a donated tricycle around South Melbourne with an insulated cupboard mounted on the front, specially adapted for the purpose.

Known as a butcher’s bike, and fitted with three gears and the ability to carry up to 20 meals in covered containers within the white box on the front, she would cycle up and down Emerald Hill, visiting elderly residents in inner-city slums.

The first Aussie meal was recorded as “soup, roast lamb and plum pudding and cost 1/3d (around 13 cents). In 1954, the Red Cross provided a car and volunteers to deliver the meals…”

Other Meals On Wheels established across Australia. The NSW branch of Meals On Wheels was launched by Sydney City Council in March 1957. History records “in the first week 150 meals, cooked in the Town Hall kitchen, were served for inner-city dwellers. Each meal cost two shillings.”

In January 2022 the Northern Beaches’ Meals On Wheels, based at 77 Bassett St. Mona Vale, merged with the Ku-Ring-Gai and Hornsby branches (based at 7 Gilroy Lane, Turramurra).

On 16 March 2023 in a launch ceremony at St Ives Community Centre, this trio was formally renamed The Village Chef by Meals On Wheels, attended by then-Deputy Mayor, Sue Heins.

Enjoying Xmas lunch at the Manly Seniors Centre, courtesy of Meals on Wheels. Photo: Alec Smart

Now Mayor, Ms Heins told Manly Observer, “Meals on Wheels provides more than just a tasty and nutritious home-delivered food service to seniors in our community.

“The team offer a friendly smile, a sympathetic ear and a ‘helping hand’ to older people in our community.

“Along with staff, an amazing group of dedicated volunteers take time out of their own lives to make a contribution that enriches the lives of others. I’m so very proud of the work they do in our community.”

Meals On Wheels provide tasty and nutritious home-delivered discount meals for residents aged 65+ (or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders aged 50+). 

Meals On Wheels Manly: https://www.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/services/seniors/meals-on-wheels

Contact: 8495 5010 or email mow@northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au    

The Village Chef (Mona Vale + Turramurra centres merger): https://villagechef.com.au/

To donate to Meals On Wheelshttps://nswmealsonwheels.org.au/donate/donate-now

Meals On Wheels NSW, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MealsonWheelsNSW/


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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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