“The service is absolutely marvellous, not only because of the hot meal but also the care and concern given to my mum during their visits. Last year, thanks to the Community Meals staff, we found out Mum was unwell and had suffered a heart attack.” This is just some of the lovely feedback given by a daughter of a Community Meals Leeds customer during her Mum’s annual review meeting.
It’s National Community Meals Week and in Leeds our Community Meals service has been delivering hot meals for over 40 years. The service supports elderly and vulnerable people in the city and helps them live independently in their own homes. Over 400 meals a day are now delivered in the city.
We find out more from Derek Johnson, Principal Catering Manager, of the Community Meals Leeds Service.
“A daily main meal meets one third of the daily nutritional requirement of an older person, and if the customer has a tea as well that’s two thirds of their daily nutritional requirement met. The meals, as well as being nutritious and tasty, also match a variety of medical and cultural diets. A customer chooses from a menu of hot meals, frozen meals to cook themselves and snacks. Every customer is offered up to four main choices per day plus two desserts.
The latest technological advances means the service can use a fleet of regeneration vehicles so the meals are ‘cooked’ as near to the customer’s house as possible. We use the same meals the frozen delivery service does and the vehicles are loaded only with the customers’ selections.
It’s not just meals we also care about safety too. We work closely with the West Yorkshire Police and their neighbourhood policing initiative to make sure the most isolated Leeds residents receive important and vital safety information about bogus callers. We will also be delivering thermometer cards as our part in the wider Stay Winter Wise campaign.
Staff can also make a safe and well check as they are daily visitors, and in some cases friends as well, they can spot the signs of anything being out of order. This is one reason why the service is still growing. The number of meals served every day is up over 10% on this time last year.
As more people are signing up for meals more people see staff when they are out and about in the community, but what you don’t see is how that meal get to the customer’s doorstep?
Meals arrive in bulk twice a week and are stored in the walk-in freezer at the Cross Green base.
You’ll notice Clare is well wrapped up. The outside temperature when the photo was taken was 18C. She is about to lose 36 degrees as the freezer operates below -18C! That’s the temperature Clare and Robert pack the meals at every day.
The meals are selected every day from the freezer by the vehicle packers so the meals are ready to pack in to the regeneration vehicles. On the day the photos were taken it was sunny, but even in snow, ice and driving rain the staff pack the meals into sequence to ensure the meals are cooked as close to delivery as possible. The three ovens are sequenced to reduce the time between cooking and delivery. The staff love chips especially micro chips!
It takes concentration to pack…and not being distracted by a photographer! Here is Beverley, oblivious to the photo being taken, concentrating on packing the ovens in the right order.
Sandra can be seen here selecting the meal to match the menu in her right hand before placing it into the open oven chamber.
Last minute changes do happen and we try to accommodate them. In the photo above John (left) can be seen putting a meal in the oven and Pete is checking the tea time snack bags before placing in the vehicles fridge.
As you can see it’s the team that enables the delivery of meals.
These are just a few of the dedicated people who ensure the meals are delivered 365 days a year throughout Leeds, with support from LCC’s Passenger Services drivers, Leeds Black Elders and the Royal Voluntary Service.
Today, I suppose the key question is “Would I have let my mum receive a Community Meal? Without a doubt! I would let any of my family. The quality and variety of meals meet most tastes, plus the peace of mind in knowing that someone can provide feedback on the wellbeing of my loved one is priceless.”
Call Community Meals Leeds on 0113 247 8577 to find out how you, or someone you care about can start receiving meals. Our office is open Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 4.00pm. Or look here.