News / Older People’s Food Campaign

Sustain calls for urgent action to protect meals on wheels for older people in London 

A new report exploring meals on wheels services in London before, during and after Covid-19 shows that many incredible community services have emerged during the crisis, but that they need urgent support or older people risk going hungry. 

Meals on wheel Westminster. Photo credit Chris Skarratt

Meals on wheel Westminster. Photo credit Chris Skarratt

Meals on wheel Westminster. Photo credit Chris Skarratt

Sustain (1) is calling on councils and other decision-makers in London to act now to save and expand meals on wheels services (2) in the capital. This is vital to ensure all older people who need support have access to at least one good meal a day and benefit from regular welfare checks and other support to help them to stay independent.  

At the end of July, support for those who are ‘shielding’ is due to stop including the roll back of food parcels (3). Alongside this many local authority as well as community based food initiatives for those struggling to access good food in their homes are winding down (4) or face a difficult decision on whether to continue, as funding dries up, volunteers return to work from furlough, and restaurant space which was used to cook meals is no longer available. In this context it is clear that support for meals on wheels services is paramount.  

A new report from Sustain and London Food Link looks at what meals on wheels services are available across London, both before Covid-19 but also those that arose in response to it. The report (5) found that numerous enterprising approaches to meals on wheels exist across the city which are scalable and are effective at ensuring that isolated older people unable to cook in their homes can access to nutritious food they need. But the report also found that many without the right support, many of these pioneering solutions will be unable to continue.  

Morven Oliver-Larkin, Sustain’s London Food Poverty Campaign Coordinator said:  

“During Covid-19, we’ve all paused at one point or another and thought about the older people in our lives who will struggle to get food during this crisis. Whether that’s difficulties in getting out to shop, or being unable to prepare meals at home, so many people are struggling to get a decent meal. This feels like the least we can ask for – everyone has the right to at least one decent meal every day. It’s not right that many older people, who are more risk now during Covid-19, can’t get the basic of what they need."

“It’s been incredible to learn about all of the hard work going on across London to address this problem during Covid-19. There are so many people and organisations working hard to get quality meals to those who need them during this crisis, and if there is one good thing that should come out of it, it will be a continuing brilliant work like this. But unless action is taken quickly to capitalise on these innovate solutions, and to sustain and support them, we will start to lose this brilliant support.” 

The report calls for a number of actions including: 

  • All councils in London to commit now to ensuring that all older adults in their borough can access at least one good meal every day 

  • A London-wide inquiry into food access for older adults and disabled adults before the end of 2020 

  • Coordinated action to ensure new community meals on wheels services can sustain into the future.

To help new services support one another and work towards these, aims, Sustain have set up an online forum that anyone can join to ask questions, share resources and get support from others who are running, developing or expanding meals on wheels services across the UK (6). 


For press enquiries contact Morven Oliver-larkin at or 07756 505922.  

  1. Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming coordinates a number of projects related to food poverty and healthy eating, including:

    1. Food Power, which supports a network of over 50 local multi-sector partnerships working to tackle the root causes of food poverty, as part of a four-year programme run in partnership by Sustain and Church Action on Poverty and funded by the National Lottery Community  Fund. 

    2. Right to Food, which advocates for the realisation of the Right to Food in UK law to ensure that everyone can enjoy safe, nutritious and sustainable food. This project is a collaboration between Nourish Scotland, Just Fair, the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Newcastle and is supported by the Baring Foundation. 

    3. London Food Poverty Campaign, which encourages London boroughs to address food poverty beyond the food bank, including promoting Healthy Start, championing school holiday food provision, highlighting good practice in meals on wheels provision and supporting areas to develop food poverty action plans. This project is supported by the Trust for London. 

    4. Sustain has several mailing lists that can be joined here, including for our Food Poverty projects and Food Power programme.  

  2. Sustain conducts an annual survey of London Borough Councils. Data on meals on wheels from the 2019 survey shows that out of 33 London Boroughs, 10 Councils confirmed that they fund, subsidise or commission a meals on wheels service, 18 that they provided some minimal support such as signposting, and 5 did not respond to the survey.  

  3. From 1 August 2020 the Government plans to end shielding provision.  

  4. Sustain has been researching local authority plans for the recovery stage. Some of the preliminary findings are available in this blog.  

  5. Sustain’s report is available here. The report was funded by Trust for London. 

  6. Joining details: Email to join. Once subscribed you can then send a message to everyone in the group by emailing  


Published 15 Jul 2020

Older People’s Food Campaign: Meals on wheels services support thousands of older people every day to stay independent in their own homes and enrich their lives.

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