Research Impact


Making every mouthful count

Working with Meals on Wheels to enhance nutritional wellbeing of frail older adults at home

New initiatives, such as in-home screening for malnutrition status, provision of snack packs and breakfast packs, meal fortification and mini-meal alternatives are the result of a five-year partnership between UOW, local Meals on Wheels organisations and, more recently, the Australian Meals on Wheels Association.

This work to influence the direction of nutritional support provided to Meals on Wheels customers led to the UOW research team being awarded the tender to develop National Meal Guidelines for the Commonwealth Home Support Programme in 2016.

The guidelines were launched in February 2017 at Parliament House, Canberra, offering the first nationally consistent approach to nutrition, menu planning and meal presentation for home delivered meals and centre based meals for older Australians.

Supported through three UOW Community Engagement grants, the original research began when Associate Professor Karen Walton and her team joined together with managers of Meals on Wheels to conduct both qualitative and quantitative research to better understand the needs, experiences and dietary intakes of Meals on Wheels customers.

This saw the introduction of new initiatives piloted within Meals on Wheels services to better support the nutrition of older Australians receiving in home meals, including both screening initiatives to identify at risk customers, and trials of new meal types.

The partnership continued to grow following a 2014 Home and Community Care grant being awarded to Kiama Meals on Wheels.

UOW researchers provided training on the validated Mini Nutritional Assessment – Short Form tool (a validated six item tool for community living older adults) and a model of care, as well as assistance with evaluation, including the analysis of the outcomes over the last three years. Outcomes of this project were presented at the International Congress of Nutrition and Dietetics in Spain in 2016.

The collaboration was awarded the UOW Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award for Excellence in Community Engagement in 2014. Alongside the impact the partnership has had on the nutritional wellbeing of many older Australians, it has offered great training opportunities for
UOW students.

Organisations that work with Meals on Wheels, including Flagstaff Fine Foods and IRT, have been included in Nutrition and Dietetics Honours and Masters student projects.

These opportunities enable students to understand the value of community-based services for older adults , the important links between hospital and community settings and the importance of applying and evaluating research based innovations.

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Partner organisations

Australian Meals on Wheels Association
Northern Illawarra Meals on Wheels
Kiama Meals on Wheels
Wollongong Meals on Wheels
Camden Meals on Wheels

UOW participants

A/Prof. Karen Walton, A/Prof. Karen Charlton, Dr Anne McMahon, Dr Siobhan McHugh, A/Prof. Victoria Traynor, Prof. Peter Williams, Prof. Linda Tapsell