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Australian Meals on Wheels Association (AMOWA)

AMOWA is a federated body of State and Territory Meals on Wheels Associations. It provides proactive and strategic national leadership and a clear coherent voice on matters that affect our clients, volunteers and staff and the local communities in which they are placed. It enables a single point of contact between Meals on Wheels services and policy-makers, funders, regulators, sponsors and other key stakeholders.

AMOWA provides an avenue for developing and sharing best practice between the 600 services that the State and Territory Associations represent, along with promoting and raising awareness of Meals on Wheels in Australia.

The association also develops strategic alliances with other for-purpose organisations, peak bodies, corporate partners and sponsors.

All Meals on Wheels services share the same fundamental ethos and commitment to the health and wellbeing of our community. However, services in each State and Territory are governed and structured differently. Meals on Wheels State by State.

Who are we?

Our Members are the peak State and Territory organisations for Meals on Wheels in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria, with subscriber representatives from Western Australia and the ACT.

Our Secretariat is based in South Australia.

Meals on Wheels – Promoting Independence and Social Capital

We provide three services in one:
– A meal (nutrition)
– A safety and wellbeing check (monitoring of physical and psychological wellbeing)
– Social cohesiveness (strengthening communities/locals helping locals)
Our preventative care model aims to assist people short or long-term who are frail, recovering from an illness or have a disability, and those carers who assist them. This encourages independence by helping people stay living in their own homes and connected with their communities. The Meals on Wheels service is synonymous with volunteerism which provides opportunities for engagement (delivering, cooking, coordinating, governance of local boards) and builds social capital.

Meals on Wheels – Preventative Care Saves Government Millions

A mounting body of evidence suggests that our preventative care model care supports older adults’ desire to remain in their own homes (see Meals on Wheels America study in ‘Research’ section below). Meals on Wheels is operationally cost effective, and the downstream financial benefits are increasingly supported by independent research. If one of our customers is showing any sign of physical or psychological decline, our ‘duty of care’ acts as an alert system. Early intervention often prevents falls and/or hospitalisation. It’s worth considering that one night in hospital costs approximately $1000 and the cost of a fall is upwards of $90,000. In the UK, after cost cutting to local governments, there has been a dramatic decline in the number of people receiving meals from 75,885 in 2010/2011 to 29,605 in 2013/14. During the same period there was a 34.2% increase in hospital admissions due to malnutrition. Increasingly, the evidence is pointing to the fact that this kind of governmental cost shifting is counter-productive.

Meals on Wheels – National and International Research

The list below features recent research reports that provide further information and evidence supporting the enormous social and economic benefits accruing from the More Than Just a Meal element of our service.

National Meal Guidelines: A Guide for Service Providers, Caterers and Health Professionals Providing Home Delivered and Centre Based Meal Programs for Older Australians (2016)
Australian Meals on Wheels Association & University of Wollongong.
When Meals on Wheels first started it was considered a radical preventative health service. Our members have long understood that a meal is an experience and that good food and nutrition are at the heart of what we do. The societal swing back to using fresh seasonal produce, less reliance on convenience products, and the culinary influence of our multi-cultural society are reflected in our recipes and menus.

These innovative National Meal Guidelines are an extension of our contemporary outlook. Choice, variety and flexibility are now customer expectations. These principles are embedded in this document and are underpinned by the latest nutritional science and academic research.

Extensive surveying and face-to-face meetings with customers, service providers, food producers and other experts have ensured that these Guidelines are also grounded in reality. They build on current best practice and will help providers as we continue to raise the bar on the meal experience we offer our customers. These Guidelines do not prescribe a single solution; instead they allow providers and producers to construct menus appropriate for their customers based on sound nutritional principles. Detailed specifications in relation to weights and measures are counter-balanced with allowances for customer choice.
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Australian Meals on Wheels Association – Shaping the Future of Volunteering (2016)
AMOWA, supported by Challenger, commissioned research to explore what motivates people to volunteer, what might make them stop volunteering and what detracts from the volunteering experience. The research was based on volunteers’ own experiences using a narrative approach, providing a rich perspective on a complex issue. The findings will help Meals on Wheels and other services that rely on volunteers to better target recruitment and retention strategies.
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Meals on Wheels America – Brown University (Kali Thomas) 2015
Dr Kali Thomas was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Australian Meals on Wheels Association Conference. As the Meals on Wheels America website states –
This study, funded by AARP Foundation and conducted by researchers at Brown University, implemented a ground-breaking approach to investigating the impact of meal service delivery on homebound seniors receiving Meals on Wheels. The study’s findings validate what we’ve all known for decades anecdotally through firsthand experience: that Meals on Wheels does in fact deliver so much more than just a meal.
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HACC Meals Review 2013
Wells, Y. (2013). Review of Meal Services under the Home and Community Care (HACC) Program: Final report – Implications for Meal Services in the Commonwealth Home Support Program. Project report prepared by the Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing, La Trobe University, Melbourne for the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.
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Dietitians Association of Australia Submission (Annette Byron) 2013
One of the recommendations of this submission was the development of national nutritional guidelines (as did the HACC Meals Review). AMOWA has just received a grant from the federal government for such a project and commissioned Wollongong University to undertake the project. A DAA representative is part of the AMOWA steering committee. For more information,
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AMOWA Submission Senate Select Committee on Health 2013
This submission summarises key research findings that demonstrate the preventative health benefits of Meals on Wheels.
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Australian Meals on Wheels Association (Oppenheimer and Warburton) 2013
AMOWA was the industry partner in a study, funded by the Australian Research Council. It provided the first national and international snapshot of Meals on Wheels. The report ‘Meals on Wheels: building towards a new social experiment for our times‘ identifies challenges faced by Meals on Wheels in Australia and overseas, along with innovative service delivery models developed in response to these challenges. The report was jointly commissioned by the Australian Research Council and the Australian Meals on Wheels Association and carried out under the auspices of the Universities of New England, La Trobe and Flinders. It seeks to provide a summary of the Meals on Wheels developments that are occurring in selected jurisdictions around the world and to understand the level of innovation, organisational forms, funding arrangements and volunteer involvement in those jurisdictions. It provides a snapshot of what is happening in those places and seeks to draw conclusions about the Australian sector. The Australian Meals on Wheels Association acknowledges the extensive work undertaken on this project and the co-operative approach adopted by the researchers. The presentation of information, analysis, findings and recommendations are the independent views of the authors and represent the known data at a point in time. AMOWA recognises that many more innovative activities and responses to challenges were underway in Australia at the time and many others have developed since the research was conducted. Nevertheless, this is a seminal report on Meals on Wheels in Australia and there is overall agreement on most findings between the AMOWA and the authors.
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Australian Meals on Wheels Association – Access Economics 2010
This AMOWA commissioned research focused on the economic benefit of Meals on Wheels as a preventative health service. It particularly focuses on the costs of malnutrition in older Australians and the potential impact of additional services that reduce malnutrition. Access Economics. (2010). Cost benefit analysis of an intervention to improve the nutritional status of community dwelling older Australians. Report by Access Economics Pty Ltd for Australian Meals on Wheels Association.
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