The Hairy Bikers ride to the rescue of Meals on Wheels. They discover the three biggest problems facing Meals on Wheels - volunteer vacancies, the food and its moth-eaten image.
Browse content similar to Episode 1. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
We're the Hairy Bikers,
and we made our name cooking real food for real people.
You're nibbling on it already!
Now, we're riding to the rescue of
one of our great national culinary treasures, Meals On Wheels.
Hot, tasty food delivered with a smile and a chat to our older people
to keep them healthy, happy and independent.
A nice bit of hake and some nice bread and butter,
you've got a feast for a king.
At its height, this volunteer-backed lifeline delivered
more than 34 million meals every year.
We all assume it's going to be there for our grandparents,
for our parents and us, but will it?
Over the last eight years, the number of Meals On Wheels delivered nationwide
has plummeted by over a third.
I lie in bed at night, wondering what I'll do the next day. No Meals On Wheels in this town.
In many areas, daily hot deliveries have been abandoned
in favour of microwaveable frozen meals -
not all of which, we think, are tasty.
-Bloody hell. Do you know what that tasted like?
-A polystyrene tile.
-It does, doesn't it?
But, unappetising food is just the tip of the iceberg.
Meals On Wheels is in desperate need of a new generation of volunteers
to keep it running.
It's seeing a face, you know.
The days get very long when you're on your own.
In this series, we want to revitalise the service
so it truly delivers what our grans and grandads deserve.
Shepherd's pie as it should be shepherd's pie.
And we'll stop at nothing to rally support.
From the man on the street to royalty.
What would everybody do without the volunteers?
-The more, the merrier.
-The more, the merrier.
We need to enlist a whole army of new meals-on-wheels recruits.
Sign up! Feed the elderly!
And bring back great fresh menus.
If we can't deliver these Meals On Wheels once a week
for the rest of our lives, then it'll be a poor do.
Our aim is to transform Meals On Wheels and its image into a lean, mean catering machine,
fit to roll out right across 21st-century Britain.
The last thing we want is to be those blokes who've done something for the telly,
walked away and it falls apart.
We're going to kick off our nationwide campaign
to revitalise Meals On Wheels with a trip back in time.
It was started in 1943 by the WVS, the Women's Voluntary Service,
to help older victims of the Blitz during World War II.
It fulfilled the need while the men were away fighting,
that British spirit kicked in and helped the community at large.
From these simple beginnings,
it's grown into a very complex picture today,
a hotchpotch of unconnected, wildly differing services
all over the country, run by local authorities,
charities and private companies,
or sometimes a combination of all three.
Good morning, Meals On Wheels!
How much they cost, how you qualify
and whether you get Meals On Wheels at all is a postcode lottery.
It was a lot easier with Meals On Wheels. It really was.
But at its heart, the traditional service delivers a hot meal
with a vital visit, ensuring Britain's elderly and infirm are kept safe and well fed.
Meals On Wheels is more than a plate of food.
It is social interaction, somebody checking on them.
It's our chance to make sure everything's OK.
As part of our mission to revive this ailing institution,
we're going to start to tackle the three big issues
facing Meals On Wheels today.
First, the food.
Hold on. See that? Can you pour potatoes?
Then we'll strive to help one beleaguered council
rally vital volunteers.
Meals On Wheels, falling apart. We need volunteers!
But getting through to a new generation of recruits is
going to require a massive facelift.
Meals On Wheels? Erm, just, like, fast food?
We'll attempt to revamp tired old menus.
And cook delicious, fresh recipes we'd all love to eat.
If we can make it the best we possibly can,
then nobody can touch the meals-on-wheels service.
Bringing hot, delicious food into the homes of our old folk
is at the core of our meals-on-wheels concept.
And from our own personal experiences,
Dave and I know just important and challenging that can be.
We both grew up in homes where food and family were inseparable.
I was an only child in Barrow-in-Furness,
on the north-west coast.
My dad worked long shifts in a paper mill,
whilst my mum manned a crane in the local shipyards.
Do you know, these roads, this red pavement,
they laid this the year after I got my first roller-skates.
Can you imagine what that felt like? I was a solid little lad!
I had no fear. Just lots of plasters!
When I was eight, my mum became disabled with MS,
and it fell to me to provide some of the family meals.
There is it, number 88. Blooming heck!
So was this, then, your first place that you cooked anything?
Yeah, this was the first house
where I applied fire to food to make a meal.
My mum took a bad turn. My father was due home from work at 10:00,
and her multiple sclerosis was starting.
She couldn't move, so I set about cooking his tea,
and I've still got that very first cookbook.
The Radiation Cookbook. You couldn't sell that these days, could you?!
I looked for something to cook, what I had in the house, and it was a cheese-and-potato pie.
-Like a souffle.
-You did that when you were eight?
When I was eight. When I think about it now, I can't believe it.
I helped my dad cook for my mum for the next 11 years,
learning as I went.
We had to care about what we fed her. Food was very, very important.
It was important to pleasure, to nourishment,
and I think a lot of old people,
they've grown up with that value in food.
On the opposite side of the country,
my mam was raised on a farm in the north-east.
She was a fantastic cook.
-Can you see that hilltop there?
Directly across, that's where I was born.
Returning to the kitchen where my passion for food began brings back
Oh, wow! This has changed. We had some dinners in here, dear me.
-She was a was a good cook, wasn't she?
The house was always alive with parties and food and people,
and that was important.
For my mam, food was one of the greatest pleasures in life,
and when she fell poorly and became too frail to cook for herself,
she still looked forward to the food she'd always loved.
So, my brother dropped on to feed my mum,
and my sister would stay for protracted periods of time
and cook for Mum.
It is so important to feed the people that you love,
whether they be vulnerable, whether they be on their own.
What do people do if they haven't got that family to tap into?
What do people do?
For over 60 years, Meals On Wheels has aimed to fulfil that need
by delivering hot, daily lunches with a smile and a natter
when our old folk can no longer cook for themselves.
But in recent years,
this crucial institution has undergone radical change.
Meals On Wheels, it's iconic, but it's not what people think.
It's not a unified service.
It's different in different parts of the country.
Now, if you need that service,
it's very much dependent on where you live.
On the north side of the River Tyne, in North Tyneside,
people can still get a hot meal delivered to their door every daily.
Over here in South Tyneside, they can't.
To find out about the effects of this postcode lottery, we're popping round the corner to meet
84-year-old retired postmaster Bob,
who is now a full-time carer for his wife Susan.
-How are you?
-Charming - I thought you were bringing the tea!
-So, Bob, we're in South Tyneside, aren't we?
-Aye, South Tyneside.
-Have you lost your Meals On Wheels?
-Never had any Meals On Wheels.
-Never had Meals On Wheels, ever.
-You care for your wife as well, don't you?
-She's got dementia.
-I've got to make all her meals.
Would it make a big difference to you
-if you could get Meals On Wheels?
Vast difference. I lie in bed,
-thinking what I'm going to bloody cook for the next day.
-So the whole thing is a mission for you, really?
Do you ever worry, though, Bob, that there's a day going to come
when you need more help and you can't do this?
It's coming now here, aye. Yeah, she's...
She's not so well, no.
What about you, Bob?
My legs have gone.
My legs have gone.
I can see my dad in Bob. My dad would have walked on hot coals
to look after my mum, and he did, until it killed him, really.
Proper salt-of-the-earth people.
So, when Bob is no longer able to cook for his wife, what's on offer?
More and more cash-strapped councils are replacing the traditional
daily hot delivery of Meals On Wheels with a bulk drop
of frozen microwavable lunches.
Liver-and-bacon casserole with mashed potato, broccoli and cauliflower.
Pudding - Bakewell tart. One minute 20, pierce the film.
To get a taste of what may be in store for us all in the future,
over the next five days, Si and I are going to road test
a randomly-selected range of these frozen meals,
which many meals-on-wheels providers have turned to
in a bid to continue to supply and deliver food to the elderly
when budgets are tight.
Bon appetit, mon frere!
-Broccoli. It's just gone to mush, hasn't it?
-Look at that, look.
We've got to start this with an open mind, because, look,
we've all had ready meals, we've all had frozen meals,
and they can be good.
Frozen food may have its fans,
but we think fresh is always the better option, if possible.
Right. Got minced-beef pie.
Jam sponge with custard.
If you're lucky, you'll get your two-course frozen meal subsidized
by your local council,
but you may have to buy them from private companies.
The cost can range from around £1.50 to up to a fiver.
There is absolutely no care in this at all, and they just...
It's like going...
"There you are, I don't care."
This one's peculiar, though. Mince-beef hotpot - "contains fish".
Don't know how they work that one out.
Sticky-toffee pudding. There's not much sticky about it.
It's the best of the puddings so far, though. Definitely.
Either that or I'm just getting used to it.
Some may appreciate the flexibility and diversity of dishes
these meals offer.
Hold on. You see that? Can you pour potatoes?
You can with that.
What have we got?
Spanish omelette with chips and peas!
-MICROWAVE PINGS BOTH:
'Recent Government figures claim that
'almost a fifth of people living in Britain today will live
'to the ripe old age of 100.'
-Bloody hell. Do you know what that tastes like?
-A polystyrene tile.
-It does, doesn't it?
If this is the future of Meals On Wheels, God help over ten million of us.
I reckon there's a big industry in this stuff.
There's got to be.
Our grans and grandads deserve a lot better.
And we're on a mission to make sure they get it.
And we're starting with a trip back in time to get some inspiration.
-How wonderful are these?!
-There's many a good tune played on an old fiddle!
Here we are, where it all began,
the birthplace of Meals On Wheels, Welwyn Garden City.
The Meals On Wheels started during World War II.
It came out of the Blitz spirit.
It was formed by the WVS, the Women's Voluntary Service.
It was so good that within 20 years it spread like wildfire
around the country, and soon they were serving millions of meals.
How fantastic is that?
Today's Meals On Wheels provision may be under threat
from council budget cuts, but during the early days,
the ladies of the WVS had to cope with the constraints of rationing.
But despite these difficult times, within a year
they were delivering over 200 freshly-cooked hot meals
to Welwyn's elderly and infirm every month.
We're hoping to learn a thing or two from their canny wartime spirit of invention.
If you don't know where you're from, how do you know where you're going?
That's the idea.
We're going to give
a couple of frugal but nutritious wartime recipes a whirl,
starting with corned beef and oatmeal savoury pudding.
Take one ounce... We're back to old measurements, lovely.
-One ounce of dripping. Beef dripping.
What Britain was built on, you see!
Northern Europe, full of lard. Brilliant.
That's about an ounce, in't it? Roughly.
To the sizzling fat, we add oatmeal, full of healthy roughage.
Followed by that old wartime favourite, corned beef.
A couple of grated carrots.
This is chicken stock. Half a pint.
Times were tough, ingredients were few and far between,
and they had to make tasty food from out of what was available.
Have a taste of that.
-That's very nice, isn't it?
-It's really good.
It's not the most appetising thing, you could lay bricks with it -
but that's not the point. There's a war on!
Finally, we ready our pudding for steaming
with a good, old-fashioned sheet of brown paper
and a length of sturdy string.
A built-in handle so you don't burn your hands in the pan,
and just steam that for about an hour and a half.
Now, they want a pudding, so we're going to do an eggless sponge.
We found this recipe. Remember, it's eggless
because the rationing in World War II, it was one egg a week.
First into the bowl, golden syrup, margarine and sugar.
And, true to this 60-year-old recipe,
I'm using raw manpower to cream them together.
"Until soft and light."
-Is that soft and light?
Right, six ounces of self-raising flour.
It says to add a teaspoonful of baking powder.
That'll give it more lift. Cos remember, it's eggless.
Next, we add a quarter pint of milk,
beat into a smooth batter, and it's ready for the tins.
"Bake for approximately 20 minutes until firm to the touch,
"just above the centre of a moderately-hot oven.
"Turn out and sandwich with jam."
Our austerity cuisine looks and smells pretty good, which is a huge relief...
..because we're about to deliver our wartime recipes
to one of Meals On Wheels' oldest surviving volunteers,
15 miles due west, here in Hemel Hempstead,
this grand 100-year-old lady pioneered the service,
and her daughter Elizabeth lives close by.
Gladys, are we right in thinking that you volunteered
up to the age of...97, was it?
-Well, that's quite remarkable, madam, wouldn't you say?
Well, the poor things wanted feeding!
Do you have any funny stories about when you were delivering during the war?
-Some of the people were very difficult.
-Some were lovely.
-What about the woman with the wooden leg?
Oh, yes! She used to say when I knocked on the door,
"Come in! Is that Meals On Wheels? Will you pick up my wooden leg?
"I've had to throw it at the children last night,
-"they were knocking at the door!"
What we've done is, we've found some recipes from the wartime.
-The first one was a corned beef and oatmeal pudding.
Would you do us the honour, Gladys, of seeing what you think?
-Tasty. Gladys, do we approve?
-Hurray, you've got the thumbs-up!
The corned-beef pudding has definitely hit the spot with Gladys,
but are we be able to proclaim victory with our eggless jam sponge?
-You have plenty of that.
Very, very nice.
That's really nice.
-You've enjoyed that, Gladys!
-Yeah, good, good!
We've been inspired by the shrewd ingenuity
of these fabulous wartime recipes,
and by Gladys Taaffe's remarkable devotion to the cause.
Now, Dave and I are heading to one of
the increasingly-rare local authorities in Britain
that still provide a traditional Meals On Wheels service.
Elmbridge, in Surrey.
Here, hot two-course lunches are delivered daily
for up to 250 of the borough's old folk
by a large team of regular volunteers.
The Meals On Wheels service is an essential part of
keeping somebody independent in their own home.
We wouldn't be able to provide meals on wheels or a seven-day service
without our volunteers.
But with their volunteer numbers down by a third,
Elmbridge's long-running service is desperate for help.
They've called us in to try and save their Meals On Wheels.
We'll be working at one of six centres that supply these meals.
Keen to get to grips with the whole operation,
we're hooking up with some of the volunteers who'll be whisking today's hot lunches
off to the elderly of Elmbridge.
Hello, ladies. Hi, how are you?
Now, you are the cutting edge, aren't you?
You are the delivery drivers.
-Wheels of steel!
You're practically Meals On Wheels, aren't you, on your motorbikes!
We're really looking forward to it, ladies.
Really looking forward to it.
-Do put us to work, Grace.
-Oh, I will!
Retired art teacher Grace picks up today's hot lunches from a dumb waiter
which ferries them out from the kitchen.
-98% are very grateful. But you get 2% of anything, don't you?
I would go pillion with one of you
but I suppose that wouldn't be allowed.
At 77, Grace has been delivering Meals On Wheels for the last 25 years.
She's typical of Elmbridge's dedicated but aging volunteer workforce.
-What do we need, Grace?
-We need a meal and a pud.
-Good morning. Meals On Wheels.
-Where should I put it?
-In the kitchen.
-Come on in.
-Oh, thank you.
-We do The Hairy Bikers. You know the programme on the telly?
-Hello. I'm Si. Very nice to meet you.
Very nice to meet... You've all got beards.
A volunteer is often the only person
a Meals On Wheels client will see all day.
It's more than just a plate of food. It's a chance to chat to somebody.
'It's a chance to make sure everything's all right.'
'If they see them so often, they can detect changes in their mannerisms
'in their health. So, it's really important.'
You're doing wonderfully well.
Across town, 88-year-old Gloria
and 81-year-old Sue are out on the rounds too.
The Elmbridge volunteers donate over £300,000 worth
of free manpower every year Without their generosity
this daily, face-to-face service would simply stop.
-Looks very nice.
-Yes, you've got prunes there.
It's a bit cold out.
-Mr Thompson, I'm Si. Very nice to meet you, sir.
-For 15 years, I was a motorcycling instructor.
-It's nice to meet a fellow motorcyclist. It's great.
If a door remains unanswered,
Elmbridge volunteers will never leave a home
until they know the client is all right.
KNOCKS ON DOOR
Mrs Wells. Oh, she's coming. Sorry.
-It's very cold, isn't it?
-It is. A very cold wind actually.
You're nice and warm in here, aren't you, though?
Mr Curtis, I'm Si. Very nice to meet you, sir.
-I like you a lot.
-Oh, thank you, sir.
The daily delivery helps people like Mr Curtis stay in their own homes.
The thing is, Grace, if you weren't going,
-how's he going to prepare a meal?
-Well, you see, this is the trouble.
If Mr Curtis still has his independence.
If it's a year or two, it's worth giving people that dignity.
-You see, they don't want to give up their homes.
-No, who would?
If there were homes to go in to... But there aren't.
But they don't want to give them up. You can understand it.
It's so important what you do, Grace. So important.
I think it is and I love it. Hello, Mrs Prunier.
-'Ello, 'ello, 'ello.
-Hello, I'm Dave.
Hello, I'm Si. Very nice to meet you.
-You enjoy your lunch.
-Thanks, Mrs Prunier.
It was lovely to see you. All these people here.
The criteria for who gets Meals On Wheels varies greatly
among those councils that still offer them
but, generally, they're getting stricter.
Here in Elmbridge, hot daily meals are delivered to people in need.
I look forward to this every day. I never get the same twice.
-'When the old folk have had time to digest their lunch
'we head back to find out just how vital this service is to them.'
What does it mean to you to get Meal On Wheels?
It's been wonderful. I can't praise it too much
because when I did this, it really left us without any means of getting about.
I can't stand very long to try and do any cooking, that's the trouble.
It's certainly a big help to me, trying to cope with the house
and the shopping and the washing and everything else. I'm 92.
Generally, do you enjoy the food
that's supplied by the Meals On Wheels service?
-On the whole, yes, I think so.
Rather a lot of things like rhubarb crumble
-when the rhubarb is as sour as anything.
I don't think they ought to do hotpots. I don't know what on earth meat they put in a hotpot
but it's absolutely disgusting.
-When the girls deliver the food to your door, they stop for a bit of a chat.
Seeing a face. Days get very long when you're on your own.
Very long sometimes.
-If you lost the service that clearly you...
-I try not to think about that.
-What would that mean for you?
-Oh, it would be devastating for me.
We've got to do everything that we can
to make sure that the system not only stays, it gets better.
If you lost the service, what would it mean to you?
It would mean a lot, I think, really. I do look forward to them coming.
They're not going to stop it, are they?
The Elmbridge Meals On Wheels service clearly means a lot to the old folk
but as cooks, we're eager to learn more about the food.
So we've come to the kitchen to lend a hand and see how it operates.
Morning, ladies. How are you, this morning?
-Fine thank you. Lesley.
-Hello, Lesley, I'm Si, how you doing?
-Fine, thank you.
-Gladys. Call me Glad...cos I'm glad all over.
-Are you the boss cook, Julie?
-I am, I'm afraid, yes.
-How many dinners a day do you do?
-Meals On Wheels, it's about 40 a day.
The girls begin work at 8:30 sharp,
both pudding and main course must be cooked, packed
and ready to go out on the rounds in just three hours.
-I've got Jane's hat.
-Hope it fits.
Look at that. If the caps fits, Jane.
Julie and assistant cook Lesley are two of only three part-time, paid staff in the kitchen.
both have worked here for over 13 years.
I've never been one for cooking.
I just... I don't know,
I've just never been into it until I got here.
My husband said, "Why are you working there? You don't cook."
It's not the most encouraging piece of news
but our first job is to help veteran volunteer Gladys
dish up the pud - ground rice and prunes.
How long have you worked here, Gladys?
18 years, now, as a volunteer.
-I'm 86 at the end of the month.
I hope I look like you when I'm 86, I tell you.
-You're fit as a lop, aren't you?
-Fit as a lop, you know?
-Well, I feel it.
-You look gorgeous.
-That's cos I've got four sons.
-Do they look after you, your boys?
-Oh, you must be joking.
The first lot of veg are already cooked
but it's nearly two hours before they're due to go out.
-That's frozen veg.
-It is, yeah.
It looks like today's veg
is coming out of the freezer in great sack-fulls
and there's clearly not much chopping going on around here.
That's blunt. That's as much use as a chocolate fire guard.
That's too short. You got to have the tools of your trade, ladies.
Working on a budget of just £1.25 a meal,
today, Julie's serving up a frozen chicken pie
and she's knocked up a basic sausage plait.
But we're beginning to suspect that cooking from fresh in this kitchen is a rarity.
So, this is our fridge - four or five shelves.
Blimey, that's teeny!
-Wow, that's a big freezer, isn't it?
-What've we got in here?
We've got boxes of liver and bacon casserole, some meatballs,
some frozen faggots. All the frozen veg. Yeah.
Cauli, peas, sprouts.
And why is it that you'd rather buy 30 frozen backed jacket potatoes
than buy 30...
cos that's got to be more expensive.
Just get a sack of potatoes and stick them in the oven. What's...
They're all identical size and weight so the portioning is much easier.
That's interesting. You deal with a lot of frozen food
-as opposed to fresh food in your fridge.
Next door is the larder, stacked high with dried foodstuffs
including some we'd hoped we'd seen the last of
in the frozen ready meals we road-tested.
-Milk powder, sponge mix...
-Potato mash mix.
-We do, yes.
As mains are dished up,
we're curious to sample the frozen chicken pie.
Make sure you get some chicken. It's all slid up the end.
Do you have to hunt for it?
-Cos there's a lot of gravy in that pie, isn't there?
-Another well-packed pie.
'Normally, we're well up for chef's perks,
'but on this occasion, we're going in with trepidation.
'How will it compare with the frozen ready meals?'
That looks like a bit of cardboard.
Can't get beyond the artificial, chemically taste.
-It reminds me of when I was a kid and you used to have cheap instant soup.
I mean, the cabbage, I don't know why we haven't got a head of cabbage.
You haven't got any knives to do it.
'These Meals On Wheels are a step up from the microwaved food,
'but we're still hugely disappointed.'
'Surely, the least we can give our grans and granddads are fresh, comforting meals,
'made with a bit of love and respect?'
What we've bitten off is pretty colossal.
Oh, yeah. I think once we've got into it, realised there's an awful lot to it.
There's a lot to be considered.
It's not as simple as it first appears.
I think there's two issues -
one's the food and the other one is the volunteers.
There could be a little more zip in their pip, when it comes to the food.
But the volunteers, I think, are integral to the whole process
I don't think dropping off packets of frozen food on a fortnightly basis
is going to work. I think the volunteers, they bring so much to the table.
They also save lives. It needs an awful lot of volunteers to keep the system working.
So we're going to have to try and drum up enthusiasm for that.
The ageing volunteer force that shore up the system in this borough can't go on for ever.
So we're joining forces with two of the Elmbridge Golden Girls
to drum up some new recruits, using every weapon in the council's PR armoury.
Lesley, you take the high street.
You are going to go to the college with a load of leaflets, pass them around.
Look charming, flutter your eyelids, all that business.
Right, here we go.
See you later, Gloria.
Go on, get the mojo going! Fire them up with enthusiasm.
'At the local college, Gloria sets out the council's promotional material,
'hoping to entice the next generation of dedicated volunteers...'
'Whilst Dave and I help Lesley set up a strategic position on the High Street.'
-Do you know how to do this, Dave?
HE GROANS WITH EFFORT
I think this might be why people aren't volunteering!
Is that it?
There's nothing on that side, look. What happens if they come from behind?
Oh really, we've got to do better than this.
Can we interest you in any volunteer work?
This is Meals On Wheels. We need volunteers once a fortnight.
Would you do it?
We want volunteers to deliver, but also...
-Look, see. Don't...
-Do you cook?
No, I'm a rubbish cook.
Do you drive?
All the deliveries are all done by volunteers.
What do you reckon?
Vote of confidence from the older generation(!)
'So far on the High Street, the council's publicity material hasn't hooked a single new recruit.'
My mum and stuff, they do a lot of volunteering, but obviously us guys,
as the younger generation, we don't do nothing, so...
I definitely think that the Meals On Wheels image is, like, kind of old.
Volunteers, especially, it doesn't seem to be appealing to the young population.
Meals On Wheels? Just, like, fast... Is it just fast food?
Eating - I honestly don't know.
'Si and I have left the High Street in search of richer pickings.'
'At the college, the council's leaflets...
Well, they're just not cutting the mustard with the students.
'So 88-year-old Gloria tries a new tactic.'
MUSIC: "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy" by Tchaikovsky
'Now, if that doesn't attract volunteers, I don't know what will!'
'At the train station, we're hitting the buffers.
-Can I have two minutes of your time? Would you mind?
-No, no? Madam, no?
You'll need us one day.
'Time to bring out the big guns. The council's volunteer display board.'
-It doesn't say "Join me", does it?
That is the most depressing thing.
-That's doing us more damage than good, I think.
'An hour-and-a-half later, much to her surprise,
'our Gloria has finally got a bite at the college.'
You can take it and...
No, I can fill it in now, if you want. If you've got a pen, I'll fill it in now.
A positive response!
Thank you very much. Yes.
'One more volunteer is great news, but we need a whole host of them
'to ensure the future of Meals On Wheels in Elmbridge.'
People are a bit reluctant to volunteer,
cos it encroaches on their private life, I suppose.
Anybody can find a couple of hours if they want to.
I just don't understand.
You can get so much pleasure out of doing Meals On Wheels.
'As the 5:15pm commuter train pulls in,
'we're forcing our leaflets on a final wave of uninterested travellers.'
Elmbridge needs you. The council needs you.
Meals On Wheels. Falling apart.
-You're very welcome.
Meals On Wheels, volunteers to deliver.
If you can't do it yourself, you may know somebody. We need volunteers!
'Four people canvassing in three different locations for over two-and-a-half hours
'has only landed us one volunteer.
'The magnitude of what we've taken on is starting to hit home.'
I think we're feeling a lot of pressure and responsibility
The last thing we want is to be those blokes who did something for the telly,
walked away and it all falls apart.
-We can't do that.
-That's not us. That's not the way our mojo works.
'We've got to get our thinking caps on.
'Like all good things that fall out of favour, it's clear this 60-year-old institution
'badly needs rebranding with a 21st-century image.'
'In the meantime, we're desperate to find a way
'to make today's Meals On Wheels and its values relevant to the next generation of volunteers.'
I don't think people realise it's delivered by volunteers,
and without them, the system will collapse.
'For our next volunteer drive, we've left the council's pin board behind.
'Today, we'll be deploying shock tactics.
'We're gate-crashing lunch at a local company canteen.
'Here, they're spoilt by fantastic, fresh-cooked food every day.'
I think the food that they're serving here has yum factor -
you can smell it, you can look at it.
'But we're about to give them a taste of what we might all be facing,
'if traditional Meals On Wheels becomes extinct -
'the frozen, microwaveable pensioner's ready meals.'
-Can we interrupt your lunch for a moment?
Of course, yeah.
It's a steak and kidney pie, with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.
These are frozen meals that are delivered to the elderly people once a fortnight.
A van turns up and offloads 14 meals, says, "Cheerio, see you in a fortnight's time", end of story.
-Look at that! What's that?
-Oh, that's fat!
I think it's pork fat. I'm not 100% sure.
-You have to bear in mind, this is your main meal. This is as good as it gets.
-Oh, this is awful!
If those meals were delivered to your mum, OK?
In a fortnight's supply, she has to pull it out of the freezer.
Would you be happy if she had to eat those every day?
Not really. I think this is more what you'd get in prison, to be honest.
Not that I've been in prison, but I imagine prisoners would get this.
'Now we've got their attention, it's an ideal opportunity
'for Grace and her fellow volunteers to canvas for some fresh blood.'
The difference is, that when we turn up, every day - 365 days a year -
we turn up with a hot meal
and they get somebody who comes in and cares about whether they're all right.
You know, keeps an eye on them.
So there's a little bit of human contact as well, which is very important for old people.
And we're lacking in volunteers.
We can't get people to volunteer to do it.
If there was something that you could do, to make a difference to that, would you do it?
You would? You all would do it?
OK, if we asked you for two hours of your time, every fortnight,
to make a difference to vulnerable people's lives, would you do it?
-You would? OK.
-Especially after eating that!
-That's one, two, three, four, five volunteers.
'Five potential volunteers isn't bad for a start.
'While we're here, we're keen to pick the brains of head chef Jason.
'He produces this great food for just £2 a head.'
'But what could he do with the super-tight Elmbridge budget?'
Just out of interest, if you had £1.25,
could you produce 40 fresh meals out for that money?
-Not a problem.
I've also worked in a school, where I was on 55p budget, per pupil,
and I still produced decent food for that money.
So £1.25, that's quite a lot anyway and you could easily do it.
'Galvanised by eager volunteers and the knowledge that cooking great-tasting, fresh meals
'can be achieved on a budget, we're raring to kick-start our campaign.'
'We want to make the Elmbridge service the gold standard,
'transforming their image, volunteer force and menus
'into a shining example to inspire others across the UK.
'And we want to start with what we know best - the food.'
I think we know what we've got to do.
-But the question is, are they up for doing it?
-We'll find out.
Ladies, we want you to have an open mind to what we're going to say.
The key thing is we want you to go fresh.
It's going to mean a little bit more work,
but we want to get you cooking again, we want to get you cooking,
cos that's dead important.
We want the passion for what you do and the service you offer into that food.
-What I think we both feel in our hearts,
it's the personal touch with the volunteers and the cooking
that makes all the difference in the world.
We reckon that if we can make it the best we possibly can,
then nobody can touch the Meals On Wheels service.
-And that's what we want.
-Sisters of Mercy, are you with us?
Come on! Right, that's it, fives, all the way round!
'Lesley and Julie have been cooking from frozen for donkey's years.'
Now we want to get them cooking fresh, delicious food five days a week.
From tomorrow, no more instant mash, custard made with dried milk powder,
no sit down tea breaks, or frozen sprouts.
But it's a huge ask for our freezer queens.
Yeah, we're a bit nervous and apprehensive.
It's going to be more work, prep-wise.
Cooking should be fine, but getting everything ready on time...
will be a challenge.
After today's Meals On Wheels have gone,
we want to set about transforming their menu.
Starting with a couple of simple fresh dishes we think the old folk will love.
You know that horrendous chicken pie that we had a taste of from that frozen thing?
We've got our own chicken and mushroom pie. So we're going to start on that one.
It's just full of flavour, and it's going to be packed with chicken.
'Today's trial recipes will be tasted by a VIP panel,
'chaired by Julie's boss, so we've had to work hard
'to keep each meal not just tasty, but strictly within the £1.25 budget.
'For our chicken pie, we're using cheap but tasty thighs.
'Each portion will cost just 75 pence.'
Now that seems a decent amount of chicken, compared to the fragments we had in that frozen pie.
I think people are going to love this.
'Lesley's first job is to brown off the floured, seasoned chicken.'
The natural reaction when you put something into a pan is to move it. Don't.
Let it seal, so you're not ripping skin off the bottom of the pan, yeah?
'At a cost of just 19 pence, we'll be serving fresh carrots, leeks and mashed potato.
'This kitchen hasn't seen this many fresh veg in years.'
And honestly, our mashed potato, Julie, is like an albino rabbit that's been in a tumble dryer.
Fluffed. Fluffed! To an inch of its life, it is!
'It's a whole new way of working for this kitchen.
'If the girls are going to get 40-plus portions of fresh food
'out to the old folk, we need to get them cooking confidently, meticulously and fast.'
Just to take stock, we've got the potatoes done,
we have the pastry made, we have the pie filling made, we have the veg prepped -
20 minutes, that's all it's taken.
'In times hen we're all feeling the pinch, these aren't just good Meals On Wheels recipes,
'they'd make a great, hearty cheap lunch for anybody.'
-Look at that.
-Our first pie! It's a proper pie, isn't it?
'We've transformed the chicken pie. Next, we're going to revolutionise Lesley's custard.
'For the last 13 years, she's been making it with powdered milk and water.'
You know your custard recipe? You're going, "I know me custard recipe!"
-Yes, I know you do, but I don't care. I want you to use milk.
Have a taste. See what the level of sugar's like.
Nearly as good as mine(!)
-No, it is good.
-It's good. Why is it good?
Cos it's been made with proper milk.
Yeah. Big, fat F-R-E-S-H - fresh.
Look at me in the eyes. Tell me that you're never, ever, ever
going to use milk powder again, when making...
I'm never, ever going to use milk powder again.
Give me a look at your hands, cos if you're crossing them...
'We're serving our new creamy custard with a traditional syrup and lemon sponge,
'costing just 22 pence a portion.'
Oh, it's like a duvet of pudding love!
'And we're determined to make our proper mash
'better than their favoured instant variety, by a country mile.'
Mash in sort of butch sort of fashion.
Because do you know what? Do you know what, you horrible little man?
If I find a lump in that mash, you're for it! 15 press-ups.
-That's bloody good mash.
'Waiting to pass verdict on our new, fresh lunch is our panel of exacting tasters.'
'Julie's boss, Kim,
'Meals On Wheels clients Mr and Mrs Phillips,
'and a lady who's sent out more Meals On Wheels than we've had hot dinners, our Gladys.'
Four plates. Thank you.
'The whole meal has come in 9 pence under the £1.25 budget.
'But have we persuaded the cooks it's been worth the extra effort?'
The pastry is so buttery. Really short.
-What do you think of the filling?
-It tastes lovely.
'The girls are impressed, but our sense of taste often dulls with old age.
'If we haven't done enough to excite the panel's palates,
'our plans to deliver the first all-fresh meals to the borough's old folk,
'will be dead in the water.'
Now, when we first came here, one thing we were shocked with,
and we've brought an example, was the frozen chicken pie.
We thought it was horrid. So we've made our chicken pie to the price.
-Can we try that now?
-Please do, Gladys.
-What do you think, Gladys?
-The potato... Is there something special in the potatoes?
-It's just potatoes.
How we normally do potatoes? They're just really fresh and really light and fluffy.
The chicken is really tender, isn't it? Very nice flavour, I must say.
It's got lovely taste, everything. It's not bland.
That's what it's about, giving people
a highlight of the day, that they look forward to eating something.
-I'm lost for words. No, it's gorgeous. Thank you.
-Would you be happy if that was delivered on your Meals On Wheels?
-I certainly would, yes.
-I should say so!
Izzy busy, let's get busy!
'They love the mains, but what will they think of our pud?'
I shouldn't eat this!
-The lemon flavouring is particularly nice.
It just melts.
So ladies, gentleman, what do we think overall?
You can come anytime. Bring that along as often as you like.
-These two lovely ladies.
-They've done very well.
-They've done brilliantly.
They have done brilliantly. And I think they deserve a big round of applause.
Fantastic, girls, really.
Hopefully we can do a hell of a lot of good.
It's been the first small steps forward. And it's very, very exciting.
But is the boss really convinced?
I thought it was fantastic. And if that's what we can produce within budget,
then we'll definitely look at it. But the girls are under pressure,
and getting those meals out hot and delivered to people, is one of my biggest concerns.
BOTH: Absolutely shattered!
It's hard to be enthusiastic when you're dead on your feet.
Today we want Julie and Lesley to take the reins and prove to Kim
that making Elmbridge an all-fresh Meals On Wheels service really is a realistic goal.
But until they've done a proper run on their own, we just won't know.
This is the big one. It's out onto the streets today.
We've had a bit of a disaster though, which has added to the pressure.
-The key cook...
Well, she's been carted off to hospital.
Lesley is very committed to what she's doing.
But she is as nervous as hell.
I woke up at four o'clock thinking,
"I'm going to be sick, I don't want to go in."
I just... I hate it. I just really was not up for it this morning.
It was like that. It was really bad. I come in and said to Kim,
"I feel sick, I don't want to do this. I want to go home."
-Hey-hey! Are you all right, Les?
-I think it's fair to say that you're focused.
'Julie is recovering, but she needs rest,
'so Lesley's in charge. She's got just three hours to get over 40 portions
'of fresh chicken pie and puds prepped, cooked and ready to go.'
-How many leeks do we want?
-'There's no way we're going to do this without some help,
'so Lesley's dragged in Mandy and Andrea in from the office to chop the veg.
'It's all hands to the pumps.'
Look at this, man. This is perfect.
Look at that, look at Glad's browning. Brilliant, that, mate.
I'm usually in the sink.
I'm doing some of this now.
It's quite exciting for me.
'Gladys is rising to the occasion,
'but Lesley's got her sums wrong scaling up the lemon sponge mixture.'
'We only put half the flour and half the eggs in.
'The mixture wasn't going as far as it should do.'
A cock up!
The thing is, we keep the mistakes in the kitchen, not on the plate.
'We've got just under 45 minutes before we've got to start plating up.'
There's a lot to remember, doing it this way.
'We can't keep the elderly of Elmbridge waiting.'
It's half nine, guys. How are we doing?
Another quarter of an hour. Got to get the puddings in.
Slap it in...
-and it's five minutes. And that's it. That's our pudding.
'The pies are almost ready, but before they go in the oven we need to check the boss is happy.'
What do you think? I think that's better than before.
Look at that. Please, God, I've made it big enough.
-Right, they're in the oven!
You know what, Lesley? It's suddenly struck me...
if we did frozen food, it'd be so much more efficient, wouldn't it?!
-It wouldn't taste as nice though, would it?
-It wouldn't be as nice.
Oh, we'd be drinking tea now!
-Please don't drop this, please don't drop this. Number one!
These would need to be in the hot box at quarter to 11 for three quarters of an hour.
-50 minutes to do 40.
-Gang, our first Meals On Wheels. It looks like a proper dinner.
The place smells of chicken. it doesn't smell of catering.
-It smells of home cooking in here.
-Glad... don't throw that away.
-You're nibbling on it already!
-Right, the first pudding's out.
-Have you got your puddings out again?!
-Like a well-oiled machine here. Are these done, Kingy?
Today's 47 fresh Meals On Wheels, ready to go out, just in time for lunch.
That's it. We were one person down, a very key person.
-We've managed to do it. Are you proud of yourselves?
-I am very proud. Proud of my team.
-What a team.
-We've done it, haven't we?
-Yeah, we have.
-Let's get the food out onto the streets!
I think Julie will be very proud of me, yes.
I'm proud of myself at the minute.
-Do you want tea or coffee?
-Coffee, please, with two sugars.
-Two sugars, chef!
-Two sugars. Thank you, chef.
'The first fresh Meals On Wheels from Elmbridge will be delivered by our old friend, Grace.'
-Grace, I've got the boxes!
We need the boxes or else we can't deliver the food!
You came down those stairs like a film star.
To mark this auspicious occasion, she'll be escorted by a couple of VIPs.
-Good morning, Grace.
-Mr Mayor. How nice to see you.
-How are you this morning?
-I'm very well.
The mayor and his wife add a welcome bit of bling, but what's most important here is the food.
If the old folk of Elmbridge aren't impressed,
big boss Kim sure as hell won't let us take this campaign any further.
Hello. Lovely to see you.
I think you're quite honoured. You're getting the very first one of these meals that's come out today.
-It's lovely. Thank you.
-Not at all. You're very welcome.
And we'd love to hear what you think.
Come on, lads.
'We're praying our fresh food survives the rounds with integrity.
'Cold chicken pie and soggy pastry won't get the old folks' seal of approval.'
Good afternoon, sir.
Everything is prepared from fresh. I hope you enjoy our chicken pie.
I was hoping it might be pheasant!
'Well, clearly we've raised expectations!'
'But will the new food live up to them?'
-Hi, Mrs Wells, we've brought your lunch.
Now, you've got a special meal today. It was cooked by the Hairy Bikers.
-Was it? It should be good, then.
-Yes, it should be.
-They've had enough practice on TV.
That's very nice indeed.
Chicken pie. Knife and fork all at the ready. Yes.
We've got a fresh Meals On Wheels lunch from Elmbridge.
-So how do you feel about that?
Great. Let's see what you think.
'Once they've had time to digest their thoughts,
'we head back to get a few early reactions to the new food.'
-Was it noticeably different?
-I did, yes.
-Oh, it was the leeks. That's right.
-Did you like them?
-Yes. I've never had leeks before.
-No. Not, you know, not in my Meals On Wheels, no.
The chicken and mushroom pie, the pastry was delicious.
Thank you for what you've done.
-I enjoyed it.
-Very nice chicken and mushroom pie,
with delicious pastry.
I ate all of it.
I'll give it 10 out of 10.
'Whilst we've been out Kim's been conducting a definitive survey of her own,
'contacting the clients to get their feedback.'
-And what's the results?
-Come on, Kim.
-Are we on a winner?
-We're on a winner.
That's brilliant. That's brilliant. Really?
They noticed there was fresh veg. And they loved it.
They were genuinely impressed with that meal today.
-You're winning again.
Well done, Gladys. Oh, that's fantastic.
-Where's the girls?
-This calls for...
You get the girls, I'll get the drink.
-Absent friends. Can't do a toast without Julie.
We've done it, girl, we've done it!
Lesley cannot say nowt, cos she's crying.
-You did great, Lesley.
-You did do great.
Julie would have liked a drop of this!
-She would actually, yeah.
-I am just so proud of you guys.
-I am so proud.
-It's the future.
I listened to those people on the end of the phone and I heard what they said.
'Kim has given our first steps towards going fresh her cautious seal of approval.'
'But we've still got a hell of a long way to go.'
'Next time, we continue our epic quest
'to revive traditional Meals On Wheels across the country.'
Feed the world. I feel like Bob Geldof.
'Can we get one of the UK's top creative agencies
'to transform Meals On Wheels' moth-eaten image
'into a successful 21st-century brand?'
-Can Saatchi do better?
-I can't see any creative agency
who wouldn't want to work on such an incredible initiative.
'Will the Elmbridge cooks be able to step up a massive gear and go fresh five days a week?'
It is a bit of a nightmare. I am having quite a few sleepless nights.
Got it! We are going to build the biggest Meals On Wheels in the world.
'We'll put our reputations on the line
'to entice an eager young army of volunteers to make Meals On Wheels
'bigger and better than it's ever been.'
The world's biggest Meals On Wheels!
Free pie and cake! Take your fingers out of your ears!
Will the local people support us? I bloody hope so.
'For the sake of our grandparents, our parents and ourselves,
'volunteers are desperately needed to revive Meals On Wheels right across the UK.'
If you've been inspired to help, there's loads of ways,
up and down the country, you can get involved.
Just visit our website to find lots of great recipes
and all the information you need
if you're interested in volunteering to help older people in your area.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Email [email protected]
The Hairy Bikers made their name cooking real food for real people. Now they are riding to the rescue of one of our great national culinary treasures - Meals on Wheels.
At its height this iconic institution delivered more than 34 million meals to the elderly and infirm, but over the last eight years the number of Meals on Wheels delivered nationwide has plummeted by over a third.
For Dave Myers and Si King saving Meals on Wheels is personal: from the age of eight Dave cooked for his poorly mum and Si rallied round to help feed his mother when she fell ill. It taught them the importance of good food in caring for people in need. Spurred on by these early experiences the Bikers' mission takes them on a journey across the country, all the way to royalty.
In the first episode, Dave and Si come face to face with the three biggest problems facing Meals on Wheels today - volunteer vacancies, the food and its out-dated, moth-eaten image. The Bikers soon discover that to have any chance of revitalising Meals on Wheels, providing fresh two-course lunches, it is going to take a shed load of passion, commitment and sheer hard graft.
After a trip back in time to Welwyn Garden City - the birthplace of Meals on Wheels where it was started in 1943 to help older victims of the Blitz - the Bikers saddle up and head off to modern day Surrey to help a beleaguered council's ailing Meals on Wheels service.
Faced with tired menus, a tight budget and a falling number of volunteers prepared to deliver the meals, Dave and Si face the fight of their lives trying to reinvent the service and drag it into the 21st century.