Sydney Meals on Wheels rolling 60 years and a million meals later

Former publican, actress and cabaret singer Doris Bishop loves to sing to the Sydney Meals on Wheels volunteers who visit her a few days a week at her home in Surry Hills.


The 87-year-old who once performed alongside the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope, lives above the pub she used to run, the Hotel Hollywood, and is one of the 200 people across the city to benefit from the City of Sydney’s Meals on Wheels service.

87-year-old former publican, actress and cabaret singer Doris Bishop loves to sing to the Meals on Wheels volunteers

“I love Meals on Wheels. I always love my food. You fill yourself up with a beautiful dinner,” Ms Bishop says before breaking into a Spanish song, to the delight of volunteers.


“I love the companionship of all the volunteers who visit.”


After 60 years of operation, the City of Sydney’s Meals on Wheels service continues to deliver tens of thousands of meals each year to hundreds of older residents and people with disability.


The City of Sydney will celebrate over a million meals at the 60th anniversary of Meals on Wheels in the City and National Meals on Wheels Day with an afternoon tea reception for volunteers and staff on 30 August.


“People like Doris are a treasure for our city, but with more and more people living in apartments and the like it’s so easy for the elderly and unwell to become disconnected – that’s why the social connections and support Meals on Wheels provides are so important,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.


“We want Sydney to be a city for everyone, not just the wealthy and well. Volunteers deliver so much more than just a hot meal, they offer a friendly face and support for people at risk of social isolation and provide an important community connection.


“Sydney was the first council in New South Wales and the third in Australia to roll out the Meals on Wheels service, with meals prepared in lower Town Hall. The service has grown in size and strength, with many generous volunteers donating their time and energy to support older residents and people with disability.”


In 1957, eight volunteers delivered 150 meals to 15 people in the first week of operation. By the end of the first year, around 19,100 meals were prepared and delivered.


In recent times, about 50,000 meals are prepared and delivered to people across the city each year. 


A team of 30 volunteers contribute more than 3,000 hours each year.


Volunteers come from all walks of life, including retirees, part-time and shift workers, students, stay-at-home parents and self-employed workers.


Volunteer Carmel Kanaley is a stay-at-home parent with two teenage children. A Glebe resident, Ms Kanaley volunteers at least once a week with Meals on Wheels, in addition to volunteer work with the local school and other charities.


“When my kids were little I found mothering to be a very thankless task, but volunteering for Meals on Wheels felt very rewarding,” Ms Kanaley said.


“It makes me feel better to make other people feel better. When we go into people’s homes to deliver the meals, our clients are always so happy to see us.”


Meals on Wheels NSW CEO Les MacDonald said the service would not be possible without the support of volunteers.


“As well as nutritional support, Meals on Wheels volunteers provide important social contact and can monitor a client’s wellbeing, health and safety. Volunteers say they gain as much as the people they visit,” Mr MacDonald said.


The City’s service makes deliveries Monday to Friday, but ensures clients get a variety of nutritionally balanced meals every day of the week as well as regular social contact.


Over the past 60 years the menu has diversified, with clients now enjoying a diverse range of meals including Indian curries, Chinese dishes and contemporary cuisine.


“The service has grown and changed over the years, but some things remain the same – we hear that the traditional roasts delivered by a familiar face are still a big hit all round,” the Lord Mayor said.


Contact Meals on Wheels in your state or territory at


28 August 2017.