Judie Vernon is heading off for her Meals on Wheels run. Photo: John Gass / Tweed Daily News
Judie Vernon is heading off for her Meals on Wheels run. Photo: John Gass / Tweed Daily News John Gass

Comfort food on wheels

FOR six decades Jill Hullock slaved behind a hot stove to keep her eight children and husband fed.

And she's had a gutful.

"Sixty years! I'm 84 this year, do you think I'm going to cook any longer?" said Jill, a resident of The Palms Village at Tweed Heads South.

Fortunately two years ago her son Lloyd Knight signed his mum up for Tweed Meals on Wheels.

So she now gets her choice of dozens of varieties of frozen meals, delivered to her mobile home by volunteers for the service based at Kingscliff's Tweed Community Support Centre.

Jill is one of the lucky ones as she's still spritely and has a big family living locally.

Many of the 200 locals who rely on the meal delivery service would be in dire straits without it, says volunteer of five years Judie Vernon.

The Tweed Daily News this week joined Judie on her weekly Tuesday morning deliveries at Bilambil and Tweed Heads.

Many of the clients are frail, sick or infirmed and don't have families living close by.

It concerns Judie that she and the other 80 volunteers who help run the service's Tweed chapter are just seeing the tip of the iceberg, with many more needing it but not knowing it exists or that they are eligible.

Beyond food, the volunteers also offer an important social support.

"A lot of these people, the only reason why they order a meal is because they get a visitor," says Judie.

"It's having someone come and visit them in their home.

"You become part of their family."

Further to that, Meals on Wheels also offer group functions three times a month that allow people, often at risk of isolation, to make friends.

There's also a one-on-one service where volunteers take clients to the doctor or other outings.

Judie tells the story of an elderly, semi-blind woman who was paying $75 in taxi fares to go to the doctor before a friend told her about the service.

"There would be so many people who would have to go into care," she says when asked how people would cope without it.

Tweed Meals on Wheels manager Chris Watt is given a lot of credit by the volunteers and seven paid staff for growing the service since he took over three years ago.

While there are Meals on Wheels chapters around Australia, they are run autonomously and some are doing better than others.

Under Chris' leadership the Tweed chapter has increased the number of meals provided from 200 to 700 weekly.

Such has been its success that in September Chris was invited to deliver a keynote address at the Meals on Wheels state conference.

"Our growth has been pretty phenomenal," Chris says.

"Certainly we're the fastest growing in this region."

He attributes it in large part to a 12-strong voluntary committee who have been willing to embrace change.

He has also expanded the number of meal options.

All the meals are sourced from Flagstaff, an organisation based near Wollongong that employs the disabled and works with dieticians to ensure the food is nutritionally balanced.

Chris said it was ideal that two not-for-profit groups were supporting each other and their mutual communities.


Meals to your door

The most expensive meal option from Tweed Meals on Wheels is $6.70, with dozens of varieties to choose from including honey soy chicken, roast beef with gravy and salmon and vegetables. There's also a dessert menu.

No doctor referral is required and there is no minimum order to ensure delivery. The service receives funding from the Federal Government but also accepts donations.

Phone 02 6674 2205.

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