It’s quite a feat – 33 years of balanced meals with a varied menu delivered to your door. That’s what Fish Hoek Meals on Wheels has been doing with its dedicated and organised volunteers.
It was because the national organisation Meals on Wheels seemed to not go far south enough that people got together to discuss a Fish Hoek version and by 1983 the first meals were delivered. Then, recipients would pay R1.25 for a meal of a soup, main course and pudding. Now the cost is R27 per meal.
“Obviously it costs us a lot more. We spend R8 800 a month on food for 40 meals three times a week,” said chairperson and Imhoff’s Gift resident, Peter Cooper. “We have funds and we get donations. All the labour is free and the drivers and hoppers use their own vehicles and own petrol.”
The 40 people getting the meals pay R350 a month for three meals a week – if they can afford to, otherwise the meals are subsidised.
The kitchen is on the False Bay Hospital premises which pays for the services (electricity and water) so the organisation can keep the prices down. (The hospital’s matron at the time was one of the founders of the organisation.)
A glance at the kitchen shows that – although small – it is home to a smoothly running organisation. Their menus are neatly chalked up so that the teams don’t make the same meals.
On the week of the Echo’s visit, the three cooks in charge had written a delectable selection for the week: vegetable soup, spaghetti bolognaise with cabbage, carrot and green beans, guavas and custard; minestrone, crumbed chicken on mash with mushroom sauce and mixed veg, butterscotch pudding and cream; and pea and ham soup, beef stew, broccoli and squash, sago pudding.
The cooking teams go in three times a week, starting at 8am and cook up a storm. A lazy susan is wheeled around the central table as the food is ladled into tiffin carriers – three-tiered cylindrical metal containers – and packed into perfectly fitting wooden boxes, covered by a blanket. The puddings go in square plastic containers.
The drivers arrive at about 10am and start packing their cars, taking their lists of recipients and the special instructions such as how to get in or where the bell is or whether the person has had to go for medical treatment that day. Mr Cooper says the deliveries can take about two hours for each driver – and the food is still hot.
Everything is recorded. For example, a cook might come the night before to take some supplies to do early preparation. This is then written on a board so that the person who is in charge of buying bulk supplies can keep tabs. The cooks are given the small budget each month to buy the ingredients for these splendid meals.
To qualify to receive a meal from this organisation, people need to be either an “advanced age”, frail, physically or mentally incapable, in financial straits, recovering from surgery or an illness, or a combination. As this was started by the then Fish Hoek municipality, the boundaries remain the same – Sun Valley, Fish Hoek avenues and Fish Hoek mountainside.
The volunteers, however, come from as far away as Muizenberg and Simon’s Town.
Mr Cooper landed up volunteering by accident. Some people on the Meals on Wheels committee went to the same church as he did and asked his wife if she thought he would mind volunteering.
“Of course not!” his wife replied. “I said yes, thinking that it was part of the church. I was invited to a meeting and the chairman was in very poor health.
“The next thing I knew I was voted in as chairman.”
And 10 years later he is still there.
“It’s very difficult to get someone to take over,” he said.
They have too few people on the committee and duties are doubled up. Mr Cooper also sorts out the rosters and their emailing and does deliveries “whenever there’s a gap”.
“We all have to do multiple tasks – we’re all quite busy,” he said.
If you would like to join Fish Hoek Meals on Wheels or volunteer in any capacity, contact Mr Cooper on 021 783 5394.