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National Meals on Wheels Day recognises resilience of volunteers during COVID-19

On the 26 August it was National Meals on Wheels Day, recognising the dedicated Australian volunteers who provided invaluable support and work to help protect older vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Meals on Wheels Day celebrates the hard work of their volunteers, who provide their time to creating meals and delivering them to Australia's most vulnerable. [Source: iStock]
National Meals on Wheels Day celebrates the hard work of their volunteers, who provide their time to creating meals and delivering them to Australia's most vulnerable. [Source: iStock]

To protect themselves, many Meals on Wheels volunteers aged 70 and over followed directions from the Government to self-isolate during the first COVID-19 wave early in the year.

More than half of Meals on Wheels volunteer workforce was unavailable and younger volunteers had to step up and take their place to support older people in the community.

President of Meals on Wheels Australia, Sharyn Broer, says the organisation is grateful to their 76,000 strong volunteer workforce who assist in providing nourishing meals straight to the doors of older Australians.

"We are so thankful for our volunteers. Regardless of the emergency, devastating bushfires, or in a pandemic, our volunteers continue to roll up their sleeves and deliver life-changing support," says Mrs Broer.

Mrs Broer adds that the Meals on Wheels volunteer workforce have really showcased their resilience throughout COVID-19, however, the services provided by the organisation are still uncertain.

Meals on Wheels is asking the Government for an increase in Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) funding to ensure the continuation of services.

The Federal Government previously provided additional funding to the organisation during COVID-19 to assist in managing the increased number of clients requiring their services.

"We reported a significant increase in demand for our services nation-wide, with many Australians facing food insecurity for the very first time," explains Mrs Broer.

"We are so thankful to the Government for supporting Meals on Wheels during this uncertain time through the increase in funding."

In South Australia there were 18 percent more meals delivered by Meals on Wheels and the State branch also received three years worth of volunteer requests within three weeks.

Over 26 local New South Wales services had an increase in demand by 50 to 99 percent, and at least five services were working to an request increase of over 100 percent.

Meals on Wheels Victoria recorded a 28 percent increase in meal deliveries and Meals on Wheels Queensland delivered an additional 132,500 meals between March and May.

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck, recently acknowledged the need for more funding for meal service providers, advising that there will be a funding review within the next 12 months.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, the Government recognised and reinforced the essential role our services play in ensuring food security for older Australians. Thanks to Meals on Wheels, no one went hungry," says Mrs Broer.

"We are pleased the Government has recognised the problem, however, our concerns remain about the timing of the review and the impact this will have on services that are already struggling to remain financially viable

“Time and time again, whatever the emergency, Australians will look to us to support well-nourished communities and create meaningful connections... and we want to be here to do that."

To view the events and celebrations on National Meals on Wheels Day, follow Meals on Wheels Australia on Facebook and on Twitter at @meals_australia.

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