Uniting AgeWell is now able to offer Tasmanian Meals on Wheels recipients a more enjoyable dining experience thanks to an $80,000 grant from the Tasmanian Community Fund.
Uniting AgeWell has installed two Oliver Sealing Systems packaging machines at Strathaven, in the State’s South, and North-West facility Strathdevon, located at Latrobe.
Both centres are currently trialling machines with hotel services manager Melissa Nicholson confident the new sealing machines will be fully functional later this month.
Uniting AgeWell currently provides Meals on Wheels for all recipients in Southern Tasmania, Devonport and Latrobe. This amounts to about 1500 meals a day.
In 2012, Uniting AgeWell kitchens produced a combined 80,523 soups, 119,603 main courses and 105,776 desserts for 1500 Meals on Wheels recipients.
While most of the meals go to older Tasmanians, the service is also available to people of any age with a disability, specific health issues or who have special needs.
The new sealing system will replace foil packaged meals which proved to be difficult to manage for some clients.
Melissa Nicholson hotel services manager – Tasmania, said the see-through nature of the new packaging meant the meals were aesthetically pleasing, easier to open and safer to use.
“Not only is the foil packaging unattractive and unappealing but there is frequent leakage from the containers and removing the lids is difficult for people with arthritis,” Mrs Nicholson said.
The new packaging is also recyclable, easy to stack and transport, can be reheated by microwave or conventional oven and can be achieved at a reasonable cost.
It will allow Uniting AgeWell to expand its range of meals with the packaging suitable for soups, entrees, main courses, salads, sandwiches, desserts and morning and afternoon teas. Existing packaging limits the current range of soups, main courses and desserts.
The new method of meal packaging will also enable Uniting AgeWell to offer home delivered meals to its 250 independent housing clients.
Mrs Nicholson said the provision of nutritious and balanced meals was essential in supporting an ageing population to remain healthy and in their own homes for longer.
She said as the population aged, services such as Meals on Wheels would see an increasing demand over time.
Mrs Nicholson said training was being undertaken to ensure Meals on Wheels co-ordinators and volunteers in each region were proficient in loading and transporting the new-look meals.
Tasmania Community Fund Chairperson Lynne Mason said the meal packaging system would have lasting positive effects for recipients.
“The Meals on Wheels service plays a vital role in helping Tasmania’s elderly, and those individuals with special needs of all ages, stay healthy by having access to balanced and nutritious meals,” Ms Mason said.