Dunedin's Meals on Wheels service is in a tough spot, with
volunteer driver numbers down and demand rising, causing Age
Concern Otago to issue an urgent call for help. Brenda
Age Concern Otago is facing a tough situation as rising
demand and a sharp drop in volunteer driver numbers puts the
Meals on Wheels service under pressure.
A perfect storm has hit the service this winter, with older
volunteers retiring, people moving away for work and others
on holiday combining with increased demand to leave Age
Concern Otago Meals on Wheels volunteer driver co-ordinator
Kristen Beardsmore desperate.
''In fact, in the two years I have been co-ordinating the
volunteers, this is the most desperate we have been,'' Mrs
Drawn from a pool of about 500 Age Concern volunteers,
drivers deliver meals up to five times a week to mostly older
people in 21 ''runs'' across Dunedin. There are 277
individual and corporate volunteers on the books, with a
further 200 volunteers coming through eight Dunedin service
clubs, to cover a four-week roster.
The Wakari Meals on Wheels run, established last year in
response to rising demand, had been hard-hit, with 10 of the
60 regular volunteers unable to help. Green Island was also
struggling, Mrs Beardsmore said.
''To be in a more comfortable position, we need up to another
It would be ideal to have enough volunteers to have some
people as ''reserves'' to provide cover.
Meals on Wheels is subsidised by the Southern District Health
Board, prepared in the Dunedin Hospital kitchen, and
delivered throughout greater Dunedin to about 350 people.
Volunteer drivers are co-ordinated by Age Concern in Dunedin
and Green Island, by Red Cross in Mosgiel, while in Port
Chalmers, local drivers organise themselves.
Between June 2013 and June 2014, 65,443 meals were delivered,
with the vast majority (46,610) delivered by Age Concern
Dunedin Hospital Meals on Wheels co-ordinator Allison Stewart
said demand for meals had been steadily increasing in recent
years and volunteer drivers were vital to the service.
''Meals on Wheels is a relatively simple way to make a lot of
difference to people's lives.''
''And not only do the drivers provide people with a meal,
they also provide contact and a check on older people living
at home,'' she said.
Volunteer driver and Octagon Club president Betty Booth said
the visit of a driver was a chance for people to have social
contact, especially people who were frail and unable to get
''Meals on Wheels can be a lifeline for some people, and it
is an easy gift to give.''
Former student Kris Collins, a volunteer driver for two
years, said taking on the role gave ''a real insight into the
Red Cross Mosgiel co-ordinator Winifred Harrix said the
service was in a ''reasonable'' position, with about 60
drivers on the books, but more volunteers would be welcome.
Port Chalmers co-ordinator Jennifer Mains said the local
service was in good heart.
MEALS ON WHEELS FACTS
• The Meals on Wheels service was instigated by the Otago Old
People's Welfare Council (now Age Concern Otago) in 1954.350
people regularly receive Meals on Wheels in the greater Dunedin
• About 200 meals are delivered each week day.
• The meals are subsidised by the Southern District Health
Board, keeping the cost down to $5 for recipients.
• Meals on Wheels volunteers are co-ordinated by Age Concern
Otago, Red Cross Mosgiel, and through a privately organised
roster in Port Chalmers.
• To volunteer as a Meals on Wheels driver, phone Kristen
Beardsmore at Age Concern on 477-1040 ext 704.