Meals on Wheels customers are set to enjoy more choice and flexibility as part of a new contract awarded by West Sussex County Council.
Royal Voluntary Service will run the service for the next five years from November.
The new contract will give clients a choice of lunch or teatime deliveries as part of the agreement.
The service will also see the meals delivered every day of the year to all parts of West Sussex, including weekends and bank holidays.
And, in what is believed to be unique among community meal contracts, meals will be served hot or chilled, depending on customer preference. Normally community meals are served as hot or frozen.
The contract will include a wider menu selection and changes to the way meals are prepared and cooked, which will make the service more appealing.
Customers will also be shown how to heat the meals if they wish and a volunteer can visit every day as part of the service’s Safe and Well Checks.
Peter Catchpole, County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “We have enjoyed a long working relationship with Royal Voluntary Service and that will now continue for the coming years.
“We can assure customers they will still be able to enjoy high quality, tasty meals that meet their nutritional needs with more flexibility than ever before.
“I’m sure the choices offered, both in terms of menu selection and delivery time, will make the service more appealing and I would encourage people to try it.
“The County Council will be working in partnership with Royal Voluntary Service to ensure the best service and food possible is delivered, safely, for our customers.”
John Figgins, Catering Service Manager, added: “We are convinced we have made the right decision for our residents and I am very excited about this partnership.
“The new range of fresh meals will enable more flexibility in terms of both delivery and heating of dishes.
“They demonstrated to us that their proposal for delivering the Meals on Wheels service best met our specification of requirements, which included a food tasting stage where some of our customers were able to sample and score the food.
“Royal Voluntary Service has also been trialling this new and unique model in Brighton & Hove, which helped satisfy us that it works and that customer choices and accessibility are much improved.
“The learning experience from this trial will be applied to the WSCC service and I am convinced this will become a benchmark for community meals in the UK.’’
Debbi Fair, Royal Voluntary Service Head of Operations for East and South East, said: “We are delighted to have been given the opportunity to provide such a valuable service to local people.
“We have listened to the views of our customers, the team who deliver the meals and other stakeholders to develop a new and exciting meals service, which puts as much emphasis on the wellbeing of those who use the service as providing the meal itself.”
The meals will meet all nutritional guidelines set out by the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) and will be served on a china plate.