Having eschewed the campaigning trail for more celebratory, comfort food (and comfort TV) fare, The Hairy Bikers have decided to do a Huge Furry Wittering-Balls, without the wittering... or balls, and embark on a crusade to revive the fortunes of the decidedly creaky-looking Meals on Wheels service (Hairy Bikers' Meals on Wheels, 9pm, BBC2, 13 September).
Launched by the Women's Voluntary Service to help victims of the Blitz, at its height it delivered 34 million meals a year. These days, though, unless you've had cause to look into it for an elderly relative, you've probably forgotten it ever existed or, like the girl polled on the street, not even have heard of it.
Its slow demise is a depressing indictment of the youth-centric, age-phobic culture we live in. No wonder the volunteers, most of whom were old themselves, were having trouble enlisting new recruits. Would Dave, who learned to cook (using the terrifying-sounding Radiation Cookbook) as an eight-year old when his mum developed MS, and Si, whose family had rallied round to help feed his mother when she fell ill, do any better?
Four people canvassing for two and a half hours landed a single new volunteer, who may or may not have been won over by an impromptu ballet turn from 88-year old Gloria. They had more joy when they went to a local company canteen and got staff to sample some of the frozen muck usually dished up. But it was clear that a marketing job needed to be done to drag Meals on Wheels into the 21st century and the meals themselves needed an overhaul too.
Overseen by a complex mix of local authorities, charities and private companies, the service was delivering meals that weren't even up to ration-era standards, as 100-year old former volunteer Gladys attested when she scoffed a WW2 recipe-inspired corned beef and oatmeal steamed pudding and an egg-less Victoria sponge. It was time to "go fresh" declared the bikers to the frozen-reliant cooks involved.
With a budget of £1.25 a head it was easily achievable. As, let's hope, is the bikers' mission to get the wheels on this much-needed service turning again.
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