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Meals on Wheels originated in the United Kingdom during the Blitz, when many people lost their homes and therefore the ability to cook their own food. The Women’s Volunteer Service for Civil Defence (WVS, later WRVS) provided food for these people. The name “Meals on Wheels” derived from the WVS’s related activity of bringing meals to servicemen. The concept of delivering meals to those unable to prepare their own evolved into the modern programmes that deliver mostly to the housebound elderly, sometimes free, or at a small charge.
United Kingdom (1943)
The first home delivery of a meal on wheels following World War II was made by the WVS in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England in 1943. Many early services used old prams to transport the meals, using straw bales, and even old felt hats, to keep the meals warm in transit.
This type of service requires many volunteers with an adequate knowledge of basic cooking to prepare the meals by a set time each day. The majority of local authorities in the United Kingdom have now moved away from freshly cooked food delivery, and towards the supply of frozen pre-cooked reheatable meals.
Ireland (1971) Longford
The first meals were delivered in Longford, a small county town in the Midlands. They were delivered by County Longford Social Services, organised by the local Convent of Mercy and the local hospital’s medical officer Dr Gerard McDonagh. The meals were distributed from a mobile kitchen for which funds had been raised by the local children. The fundraising had been organised by the Longford News (local newspaper) editor Derek Cobbe.
Some of the first meals were delivered by a volunteer driver. The mobile kitchens were built by a local businessman, Noel Hanlon, at his ambulance factory in the town. The vans had specially fitted gas cookers provided by the ambulance factory to keep the dinners warm. Meals were delivered then to some 400 people around Longford.
Meals on Wheels was set up in Midleton by a group of likeminded people who wanted ro give back to the vunerable in the community. It started as a tea and sandwich service but over the years developed in to providing a hot meal dleivered to peoples homes. This is the current service model today with an emphesis of also loking after the well-being of Clients.