BATHURST Meals on Wheels and the Central West Food Service has assured there will be no cutbacks on food quality as the organisation reviews its pricing, operational costs and staffing.
The orangisation has been facing unprecedented challenges over the past year, including increased food, utility and fuel costs, on top of a rise in clients utilising the service.
Out of necessity, all food prices have increased by an average of 13 per cent and more expensive items have been removed from the menu.
So far, the higher costs have been accepted by most distribution centres based on their understanding that their own costs to distribute the meals have also increased.
It comes as 404,000 meal items were supplied in 2021, with around 44,000 supplied directly to clients in Bathurst and Oberon. The rest were distributed to other areas.
The overall food costs for the past 12 months were just under $1 million.
Despite the challenges, Sarah Thomas, the manager of Bathurst Meals on Wheels, has assured that the quality of meals will not change.
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"The costs are just rising and we're doing what we can to try to keep prices as low as possible while still producing the same quality of meals," she said.
"We'll never lower the quality of the meals just for pricing."
Meals on Wheels is also facing new challenges with funding in arrears, which will require more careful financial management in response, but Ms Thomas said she is still optimistic about the future.
"I think there will be a lot of changes in the next few years. We've got some funding changes that are just coming into place at the moment," she said.
"It may mean that we have to relook at how we do things, but it doesn't ever mean reducing the quality or what we do; the service that we provide to an individual will never change."
She said the organisation continues to do whatever necessary to ensure everyone receives their meals, including staying well after dark to fill the orders.
Meals on Wheels is primarily a volunteer-run service and, although there are 150 volunteers currently supporting the Bathurst operation, more are needed to better meet the demand for meals.
"We'd love to invite more people to join our service and help out however they can to deliver meals or plate up meals to go out to clients," Ms Thomas said.
Volunteers don't leave meals on the doorstep. They meet face-to-face with clients for the handover, which acts as an opportunity for a brief welfare check to ensure the person is safe in their home.
This small action has saved lives before.
Board member and volunteer Dr Donald Alexander said it can be a rewarding experience to work with Meals on Wheels.
"It gives me a great deal of satisfaction delivering meals to a lot of the older people who use the service. They always seem to be waiting for you at the door," he said.
People who want to help can contact Bathurst Meals on Wheels for further information.
The organisation also accepts financial donations from individuals and businesses.
"They are most welcome to donate any money," Ms Thomas said.
"We will be having a business raffle at the end of the year, so if there are any businesses that would like to donate prizes for our raffle, which will go to volunteers, [they can]."
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