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‘More than just a meal’ frozen all the way to the border

Geoff Helisma

Inadequate available funding for Iluka Meals on Wheels (IMoW) has resulted in a decision to cease delivering hot and/or locally prepared meals to the organisation’s clients.

The Iluka kitchen will be closed and two part time permanent cooks who work 25 hours a week will be made redundant, however, IMoW volunteers will still deliver meals, albeit frozen meals.

The change means that the Iluka service will follow other north coast branches, such as Lismore, Evans Head, Ballina, Tweed Heads, Casino, Yamba and Maclean, and only deliver frozen meals.

Townsend-based provider, Connect You Too, which oversees the operation of IMoW, said the change was unavoidable.

Connect You Too’s general manager, Kerrie Little, states in a FAQ information sheet that “the amount of funding received from the government is $70,000 per year and the cost of employing cooks to meet our obligations to meet Food Safety Standards is $113,347.00 per year”.

She said that frozen meals would be sourced from one of the three companies that “have been doing this for some time … they all provide meals to a range of other Meals on Wheels services”.

“We’ll be looking for the best meals, because they are all very similar in price,” she said, “and we have to meet certain nutritional values and sizes of the meals.

“Customers will be given a free meal for tasting to start with.”

Ms Little said a “service administrator will continue [to] support the volunteers” at the Iluka kitchen.

Ms Little said Connect You Too had approached the appropriate government department and asked for a funding increase, however, she said the application was rejected because the area’s population was too small “and, therefore, does not meet their criteria” – IMoW services 40 clients.

She said that – despite “seeking the best prices for all products”, purchasing discounted electricity, using a grant to buy a new freezer, reducing staff hours and pursuing “wholesale selling of our meals” – at the financial year’s end the service will have a $60,000 deficit.

Ms Little said other aspects of the service were important, quoting the Meals on Wheels catchphrase, more than just a meal.

“The purpose of our service is to say hello and check on people, as well as providing meals,” she said.

“This role that the volunteers do is very important and for some people it is vital to their health and enabling them to remain living at home.”

Connect You Too is a charity that “aims to assist those independently living at home by providing quality, safe and reliable community transport options for the frail, aged and vulnerable, as well as healthy meal options for the Iluka and greater area residents”.

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