THIS might be deemed the meal of last choice but a wide cross-section of the community banded together to ensure every bite is worth it.
City of Ballarat hosted more than 100 people for lunch to blind-taste a three-course meal from two providers in the final stage of the Meals on Wheels tender process.
This is the second time the City of Ballarat has held as taste test as part of the tender process.
Ballarat deputy mayor Jim Rinaldi felt, as a councillor, it was important to actually taste the food and governance side of Meals on Wheels rather than rely on experts' opinion for council approval.
"The last contract we had I wasn't involved and there was certainly a lot of discussion at that time about who got the contract. I wanted to make sure this time I was involved so I really understood the governance involved and how this works," Cr Rinaldi said.
We are talking about the most vulnerable people in our communities and if we provide them with better food, than it's better for their health and keeps them at home longer being self-sufficient - that's crucial.Ballarat deputy mayor Jim Rinaldi
Participants compared entrees, mains and dessert from each applicant, which remains anonymous in the tender process. Texture-modified food, designed to dissolve on the tongue, was also available to taste and compare for clients who might have issues swallowing.
City of Ballarat active ageing members Gwen Austin and Val Fitzpatrick said it was a privilege to offer their opinion.
"I think old people are entitled to get good meals as much as anybody," Ms Austin said.
Meals must meet a stringent set of nutritional content. The tender process has also focused on produce, with a preference for local ingredients and fresh food, as well as good value for money. This has included site visits.
The tasting session, like a television cooking competition, was about taste and presentation for a wide cross-section of the community, including The Courier.
City of Ballarat active ageing executive manager Ann Pitt said the ultimate test was whether you would appreciate such a meal for your tea.
"For people getting Meals on Wheels, it is the meal of last choice when you can no longer look after your own cooking needs or get your own nutrition and you're nutritionally at risk," Ms Pitt said.
"It's important to get the smell, the taste, the look right. As people age, their desire to eat drops off. We want it to be the food they like to eat. We're back in the '80s, comfort food.
It's no good putting up trendy food because it's what we like - they won't eat it.
Lamb's fry and bacon is a must in winter, as well as mashed potato with lots of meals and casseroles are popular, too. For dessert, Ms Pitt said customers want real custard.
Once the tender is awarded, a community panel will review the menu with the caterer.
City of Ballarat supplies about 80,000 main meals, 40,000 desserts, 15,000 sandwiches and 14,000 soups to 400 meal recipients across the municipality each year.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.