Where: Hemel Hempstead
Scale: Schemes across much of Western world
Responding to disaster can unconsciously precipitate enduring social innovations. As the people of London suffered through the Blitz, the Women’s Volunteer Service began to provide hot food for people whose homes have been destroyed, with the first organised scheme following in Hemel Hempstead in 1943.
The earliest deliveries adapted old prams to transport the food easily and quickly around the community, using straw bales or even felt hats to keep the meals warm as they rushed between homes.
Modern models for Meals on Wheels are less homespun, but the core principle remains – councils often engage private contractors to provide pre-cooked frozen meals, hot food or even afternoon tea for isolated older people, providing an invaluable source of support and social interaction for people who feel cut off from their community.
Similar projects began across the US and Canada in the 1950s and 60s, and remain commonplace to this day.