First Meals on Wheels delivery

The Meals on Wheels programme was started in June 1951 by the North Canterbury Centre when they began preparing and distributing soup for people in need during a gas, coal and electricity shortage.

Mr Fail of Fail’s Fish Café, Christchurch offered to cook stock twice a week. The stock was delivered to the Centre in jelly form and was made into soup. Meanwhile, the M.M.M Butchery supplied the Centre with all the bones and meat for the soup for free.

Country sub-centres supplied most of the vegetables and the town sub-centres took turns helping prepare and cook the soup. The soup was then put in milk bottles and delivered cold. The bottles were covered with cellophane with a Red Cross in the centre. By August 28, 2028 pints (1153 litres) had been made and distributed. By August 1951, the North Canterbury Centre had begun cooking and delivering hot meals twice a week.

“From the first, the dinners proved very successful, but owing to a lack of containers and transport, an average of only 18 dinners per day could be delivered – these taking no less than 2 hours, as the recipients lived in widely spread districts. A start was made with just a stew and potatoes, then vegetables were added and then milk puddings, these latter proving most popular. The dinners are varied so that the same menu is not repeated too often.”

- New Zealand Red Cross annual report 1951-52 , p.10.

Since 1951 Meals on Wheels has become one of the cornerstones of Red Cross in the community delivering 544,843 last year alone.