Funds needed to keep Meals’ costs low

Meals on Wheels is continuing to fight for more federal government funding to prevent an increase in the costs of its service for thousands of Tasmanian residents.

Earlier this year the Australian Meals on Wheels Association revealed it needed an extra $5 million in government funding to absorb the growing cost of running the organisation.

In Tasmania, Meals on Wheels provides more than 180,000 food deliveries each year.

The extra funding was not granted in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s May budget, leaving the association to continue lobbying the government. 

Speaking to The Examiner, Australian Meals on Wheels Association president Nelson Mathews said the fight was ongoing.

“It’s business as usual at this stage although we would still like that funding and we are currently talking to the government about it,” he said. 

“It’s worth investing in and we want to make sure the government invests in it and keeps investing in it.”

The federal government only provides a small contribution to Meals on Wheels – which varies from state to state – and could be as low as $3 per meal. 

Mr Matthews said if funding did not flow, the costs of meals could increase.

The Tasmanian branch’s 2016 annual report, the last available, showed the organisation had a deficit of $222,699 for the 2015-2016 financial year. 

Meals on Wheels Tasmania acting chief executive Sue Williams said it was business as usual for the organisation.

She said the national Meals on Wheels Association was responsible for seeking extra government funding. 

Mrs Williams said the Tasmanian branch had not seen a notable increase in customers, but acknowledged the organisation was always looking for extra funding and support to mitigate costs rising. 

“We do have price increases every so often but we try to keep it as low as possible,” she said.

Between 50 and 80 per cent of the cost of Meals on Wheels is paid by the consumer. 

While a price rise could hit customers, Mrs Williams said there were options for people who required the service but could not afford it.

“We also have a special fund – a hardship fund – if people are having a tough time or can’t afford it,” she said.  

In April Mr Matthews raised concerns about elderly people skipping meals due to an increase in service costs. 

“If you slash funding for Meals on Wheels it's going to have downstream community consequences,” he said.

The national president described the organisation as a “preventative health service”, and called on the government to put more money towards it.

Funding is not the only focus for the service’s sustainability. 

Mrs Williams said the Tasmanian organisation was always seeking volunteers.

She encouraged people interested in helping the community to contact the state office by calling 1800 696 325 or emailing admin@mowtas.org.au.

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