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Meals on Wheels® has long been a household name across the world when it comes to meal delivery, but what is less understood is the contribution the organisation makes to building community and social connection through its volunteer-driven and connection-focused model.

Meals on Wheels® Australia (MoWA) partnered with Huber Social to measure the social impact of the service, with a specific focus on understanding the broader benefits of the MoW model beyond nutrition. The goal for this process was twofold – obtain evidence that MoWA has real impact beyond basic meal delivery, and better understand the key drivers of success in order to ensure the service is as effective as possible and resources are focused to have the most impact. There are clear social and economic gains for the way the elderly are supported in Australia if services such as MoWA are able to assist people to live independently in their homes for longer.

Key findings:

  • Meals on Wheels volunteers have higher wellbeing than other Australians – when compared with a sample of comparable Australians. Meals on Wheels volunteers were found to have 10 percent higher wellbeing. When compared to volunteers of a similar age group and volunteer time commitment in a different organisation, Meals on Wheels volunteers still report having 4 percent higher overall wellbeing.
  • Volunteering with Meals on Wheels builds a sense of belonging – Meals on Wheels volunteers who have been supporting their community for at least six years reported significantly higher scores across factors related to their sense of belonging.
  • The more customers get to know their Meals on Wheels volunteers, the higher their reported wellbeing. For example, customers who know their volunteers ‘a little’, ‘somewhat’ and ‘very well’ were found to have positive improvements in their wellbeing by 3%, 9%, and 18%, respectively.
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