There will be a new kitchen behind Ballarat's meals on wheels, the council announced today.
The catering company Hearty Health has won the tender to supply some of the city's most vulnerable residents with their meals.
The company, which is based in Campbellfield in the north of Melbourne, won a taste test held in Ballarat in June.
Almost 100 people took part, including people who currently receive meals on wheels in the city.
According to a council press release, Hearty Health was a "unanimous choice" with all of 10 tables voting for Hearty Health ahead of its rival.
The company was also selected for its supply of "fresh primary produce" with the majority of its vegetables coming from Victoria, as well as for its Australian-sourced fish
Hearty Health has been supplying food to childcare centres for 20 years, with contracts in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
In more recent times, the company has also begun supplying the aged care sector.
It has been an eventful year for meals on wheels in the city, with the service facing an unexpected challenge in February when its existing contractor, iCook Foods was shut down by the Department of Health and Human Services.
It followed the death of an elderly woman in a private Melbourne hospital. Initially, her death was linked to listeria, but subsequent tests showed the levels of company's levels of listeria were well within safe limits.
The company has taken legal action against the DHHS, and is vigorously contesting the actions taken by City of Dandenong health inspectors, as well as the subsequent closure by the DHHS.
The Ballarat meals on wheels service continued despite the shutdown with replacement meals sourced from a variety of different suppliers.
There were four companies involved in the recent tender. While iCook Foods was initially part of the process, The Courier understands it was eliminated after it sent an email to councillors and the CEO deemed to breach the conditions of the tender. The company's managing director Ian Cook told The Courier he sent the email to tell his side of the story.
The council's one-year contract with Hearty Health is due to begin next month on September 16. Hearty Health will also work with meal recipients and the council on menu choices.
Meals on wheels have been supplied in Ballarat for more than 50 years and there are around 140 volunteers involved.
They help deliver 80,000 main meals, as well as 40,000 desserts and 14,000 soups to 320 meal recipients across the area each year.
- Editor's note, April 2020: The correct number of meal recipients was 320 (not 520 as originally stated). This information was incorrectly supplied to The Courier.
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