Gone are the huge soup vats and giant ladles.
When I join meals on wheels volunteer Russell Leviston at the council-run hub on Mair Street, meals, juice cartons and desserts are neatly stacked in a coolbox in his car boot.
He tracks deliveries by printed notes on a clipboard, with any special dietary needs marked in purple highlighter pen.
The meals have moved on. Even the wheels have changed. The first Victorian service reportedly involved a woman called Mrs E.Watt trundling the streets of South Melbourne on a tricycle in 1953.
But as we roam Ballarat East in Mr Leviston's Ford Fairlane, I learn the meals on wheels ethos remains much the same.
That contact is crucial - Russell might be the only person they see on a regular basis.Ann Pitt, City of Ballarat Council
Frances Donovan, a social worker at the time of that first tricycle service, said it was viewed as much more than just a meal.
"It was a vital community link," she said. "For some older people, the only person they saw was the one delivering the meals."
Mr Leviston, 67, would have been a baby when the tricycle first travelled the streets. But I hear exactly the same story as he goes about his round of nine different homes.
Our first stop is in Golden Point. There is a good-natured exchange with an elderly gentleman at the door after Russell has checked his checklist, delved into the coolbox, and knocked.
"He always has the same attitude, happy to see you, always happy go-lucky," Russell tells me as we head back for the next house.
This time we stop at the home of a 94 year-old, whose son meets us at the door. "Before I got here, Dad probably wouldn't see anyone else during the day apart from Russell," he says.
Three years into life as a volunteer, Russell is clearly a familiar face at every stop on the route - and knows what to expect.
There is one elderly woman he knows won't have time to chat when we stop. "Her hands are so full of arthritis, you don't want to hang around in this cold," he says.
At another stop, he is perturbed by the wait. "Mrs Flynn always meets us at the door," he says. We linger for a minute or so, mildly concerned, before a figure finally appears. It turns out Mrs Flynn was in a back room this time and could not hear the bell.
It is a reminder, however, that meals on wheels are also a point of connection. As Ann Pitt, who manages the council's active ageing department tells me: "That contact is crucial - Russell might be the only person they see on a regular basis."
It can even have medical consequences: Russell recalls one time when he heard a Sebastopol regular fall inside her house, and alerted the emergency services. "If I hadn't been there no one would have known until the next day."
We park again outside a house in Ballarat East, armed with another meal. "She'll definitely let you know if she didn't like the broccoli yesterday," Russell tells me.
Instead, she tells us her meals on wheels won't be needed for a month or so. It isn't the broccoli's fault though. She smiles as she tells us she is headed for respite care while her daughter travels to Europe.
I hope you're building up Russell a bit. He does a very good job.John McRory, meal recipient
Russell phones in to tell food co-ordinator Jackie Pederson ("the heartbeat of the operation" according to Ann Pitt). "You do such a great job," our meal recipient tells Russell as he leaves.
Every stop, it turns out, has a tale. We meet fiercely independent 91 year-old Raymond Magilton, who proudly tells us he is still driving. "I'd still be flying if I was allowed to," the former air-force mechanic says.
And then there is 87 year-old John McRory whose Irish accent still lilts after more than 60 years away from Derry. He invites us in and insists we sit down as the radio blares and photos of his grandchildren smile down from the wall.
He's such a lovely man to talk to. Ninety-nine per cent of them are.Russell Leviston, volunteer
"To have a meal cooked for you each day, it makes life very comfortable," he says. "I hope you're building up Russell a bit. He does a very good job."
The feeling it seems is mutual. "He's such a lovely man to talk to," Russell tells me with the coolbox almost empty now. "Ninety-nine per cent of them are."
The pleasure Russell gets from the interactions is clear - and these are brief compared to the "hot run" he will do later, when he sits down for a hot meal with people who can't prepare it themselves.
I used to laugh back then and say maybe I'll get them one day. And now here I am.
"I just had nothing to do," he says when I ask why he joined 140 other volunteers, whom Ms Pitt describes as the backbone of the service. He now travels three days a week from Burrumbeet to volunteer and hasn't looked back.
Our final stop is at the house of Mrs Brennan, an elegant 85 year-old former teacher.
Standing in the doorway, just moments away from the primary school where she once worked, she recalls when she used to deliver meals and wheels herself. With her children in tow, she would carry old-fashioned containers.
"I liked giving something back," she says. "I used to laugh back then and say maybe I'll get them one day. And now here I am."
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