In 1947, in Hemel Hempstead, women belonging to the Women’s Voluntary Service (later the WRVS) created a service that’s become a British catering institution – Meals on Wheels.
The Meals on Wheels concept – delivering meals to those unable to prepare their own – evolved over the years as local authorities worked tirelessly alongside thousands of volunteers to build a modern programme of home support.
Although never fully integrated across the UK, at its peak the service delivered 34 million meals to the elderly and infirm.
Over the last decade that’s decreased by a third. The number of volunteers able to help with the cooking and delivery has also fallen. The majority of councils have moved away from freshly cooked meals, to using frozen, pre-cooked, re-heated meals.
There’s now a fight on to save Meals on Wheels’ services around the country. Two people who have taken up the challenge are among television’s most popular culinary champions, The Hairy Bikers, aka Dave Myers and Simon King.
Ian Houldsworth, Sammic UK’s Managing Director has first-hand experience of Meals on Wheels’ services, having been involved in supplying equipment for two big city centre kitchens some years ago. It never occurred to him the service would ever be under threat.
We could all be affected at some time in our lives. The number of people aged 60 and over is expected to rise 50% in the next 25 years.
We’ll all know someone who will need a service like this to help them through each day. It’s not just about the food but about the visit of a friendly face and contact with the outside world.
The Hairy Bikers campaign currently features on BBC 2 on Tuesday evenings. Visit
for more information about volunteering or visit the Hairy Bikers for a take on the subject at