A not-for-profit scheme that is helping elderly people in and around Carlisle access nutritious meals could expand to other areas.

Meals on Wheels Cumbria currently delivers more than 50 hot meals a day to those who would otherwise struggle to eat well.

It is so successful that project manager Trish Price and husband David now have hopes of rolling it out to other parts of Cumbria.

It was originally set up in 2014 as Fair Meals Direct - to keep the provision going when the area’s previous meals on wheels service, originally run by Cumbria County Council, closed.

The enterprise has since evolved and is now being hailed nationally, both as a successful community project and healthy food scheme.

Now Meals on Wheels Cumbria, it is part of the Food Carlisle network- a city wide partnership aiming to promote local food producers and improve the health of the population.

The social enterprise was one of the examples used to support its bid to secure the Sustainable Food Cities (SFC) Bronze Award - a top national accolade that was presented to Carlisle earlier this year.

Mrs Price said she was proud to get the recognition, and said they couldn’t do it without the army of volunteers that deliver the meals to elderly and vulnerable residents across the Carlisle area.

She first became involved with the not-for-profit project just a few months after it was born, originally as a cook.

She went on to become project manager, then took it over when founders Sustainable Carlisle were ready to take a step back.

Mrs Price said what started as a part-time job turned into so much more, and she’s never looked back.

“I’ve worked in many kitchens in cafes, shops and restaurants, but this has a lot more depth to it and far more meaning,” she said.

“I love older people so dealing with them all the time is ideal for me. I love it. I’ve found my niche.”

Based at the city’s Water Street hostel, the meals are prepared in their kitchens every weekday.

Mrs Price compiles the menus, aiming to provide hearty, nutritious meals that taste great - all within a limited budget and using local ingredients wherever possible.

They have a list of clients, who can choose which days they receive meals and which of the three options they prefer. They can also order a daily pudding and a sandwich for later in the day.

Regular options include roast dinners, toad in the hole and pies.

“We believe that having a balanced diet is very important, and we strive to make each dish special,” she said.

Once cooked and ready, the volunteers arrive to distribute meals to all of the clients - covering the city and outlying areas, including Wreay, Thursby and Heads Nook.

These arrive between 12pm and 1.30pm each day, and Mrs Price said the recipients build up a strong bond with the volunteers.

“Our volunteers are fantastic. They are dedicated and committed. They build up relationships with elderly people, some of whom they’ve delivered meals to for years.

“It’s much more than food. The contact is also important. We can often pick up on problems and alert family members. For some families we’re an absolute lifeline.

“Some of the people we go to have families living abroad so it’s reassuring to know we are going in on a regular basis.”

Funding comes from a variety of sources. Volunteers’ petrol is paid for by Cumbria County Council, while Carlisle City Council provides the premises.

They have also had some other grant funding, while the income from the meals helps to cover the cost of ingredients.

Main meals cost £3.70 each and puddings £1.50 and recipients can pay daily, weekly or monthly.

​Since its launch in 2014, the service has grown considerably.

In the early days it delivered to about 20 clients, but now provides hot meals each day to roughly 50 people.

However Mrs Price believes there is still a bigger demand out there, with many elderly people struggling on because they don’t know there is another option.

“A lot of people do not even know that we exist so we just want to get word out there that we are here if you need us,” she said.

“We have quite a big patch, but I would like to roll the model out in the county.”

Food Carlisle has hailed the scheme as a huge local success story that ties in with wider the wider Healthy City agenda, making a difference to the local community.

Mrs Price encouraged anyone who wants to find out more, or who may want to volunteer, to get in touch. Call 01228 267167 or email admin@mealsonwheelscarlisle. More information is also available on the website at www.mealsonwheelscumbria.org.