Beehive Industries ambassador and MasterChef star Kumar Pereira running a cooking demo at the Low Cost Meals For Seniors Program launch yesterday
Beehive Industries ambassador and MasterChef star Kumar Pereira at the program launch 

A social enterprise that supports disadvantaged seniors and people living with disability has launched a new low-cost meal program to assist older people to prepare simple meals on a budget.

Beehive Industries is a Sydney-based not-for-profit that has run activity programs to prevent social isolation among seniors and those with disabilities for almost 45 years.

At its centre in Darlinghurst, Beehive’s clients have opportunity to do volunteer work and participate in leisure activities such as bingo, art and computer lessons. With the help of food donated from OZHarvest and FoodBank, Beehive also feeds its clients breakfast, morning tea and lunch each day.

However, chief executive officer Brendan Lonergan said that it has been clear for a long time that for many of Beehive’s service users, these were the only meals they ate in the day.

Many Beehive clients lived in social housing or boarding houses, and all were on some form of pension or welfare support. Further, Mr Lonergan said that around 60 per cent lived alone, which could often mean they did not see the point in cooking a meal, especially when money was tight.

He noted an example of a man whose wife had recently died. She had cooked for the couple for 50 years, and now alone, the man was unsure how to prepare nutritious meals and was “wasting away”.

“If someone’s getting run down, they’re getting sick, they’re in and out of hospital all the time – it might be as simple as they haven’t been feeding themselves properly, because they just didn’t know how, it was too complex or they weren’t motivated because they were lonely,” he told Australian Ageing Agenda.

To help address these issues, Beehive Industries launched the Low Cost Meals for Seniors Program on 10 December. The program aimed to help seniors cook healthy, easy to prepare meals on a limited budget –  around $5 each.

All recipes were designed by Beehive Ambassador and MasterChef star Kumar Pereira, who under the program would run free monthly cooking classes and demonstrations for Beehive clients to teach them simple one-pot recipes.

“The idea is that it’s simple, it’s nutritious, and can be cooked by someone without any prior cooking skills. We don’t want to limit people,” said Mr Lonergan. “We want something that’s quick and easy to prepare, so that people are motivated to get into it, and that it meets their budget.”

Helping seniors ‘all over the country’

The aim of the program was also to share these recipes with a much broader audience. Each demonstration would be filmed and shared online for free along with the recipe list on a new website to be established in February next year.

“If there’s someone in Melbourne who wants to know about it, I’m happy to share it with them,” said Mr Lonergan. “There are seniors all over the country who need a hand.”

Mr Lonergan said he hoped that learning how to cook may have additional social benefits for seniors, especially those living alone, as it may motivate them to invite others over for a meal.

“If you want to invite a friend over, you just literally double the ingredients,” he said.They can have a meal, they can share their stories and maybe they can teach their friend how to cook too.”

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12 Comments

  1. What a wonderful initiative . Well done to Beehive . Perhaps the program could be expanded to other locations ??

  2. CEO’s today are meant to drive and engage initiatives like this. Well done to Beehive – I thought for a moment that this sought of thinking was ….. history

  3. Great article. Will you let us know when the new website is launched?
    (Each demonstration would be filmed and shared online for free along with the recipe list on a new website to be established in February next year.)
    I read a thought provoking article recently from a nutritionist talking about older people and lack of appetite contributing to malnutrition. It made me re think my approach to my own Mum and I am now suggesting different ideas to her to help her increase her appetite. Certainly not the same ideas one would pitch to a younger person. Sometimes I think we are flooded with messages about healthy eating and forget that the approach for older people who may not have a great appetite needs to be different.

  4. Great work! Would love to chat – potential to share learnings with The a Lantern Project. Thanks for sharing AAA!

  5. An interesting idea, and I hope it becomes common knowledge. This initiative comes from someone working with vulnerable people, using the example of a man who has never cooked for himself and is ‘fading away’. Many people are not in this category but still have problems with ‘fading away’. I am still surprised to find myself in 2015 not cooking and eating healthy food. Your articles touches on the loss of interest in food (and cooking). For the many living with chronic diseases that saps energy resulting in the appetite going. I am intelligent, educated and I know how to cook, and know the importance of nutrition as I get older and particularly with a rare and incurable disease. I still don’t feel like cooking or eating. Living alone is the single biggest barrier – so I now host an international student and I HAVE to cook an evening meal, and I HAVE to sit down with the student. So now I eat, not a lot, but I eat. It is not lack of knowledge of nutrition and it is not an inability to cook, it is a lack of appetite combined with the feeling of pointlessness in cooking for one.

  6. This is really great. As a community services provider our support staff are often at loss of what to suggest to cook for our consumers that is cheap , healthy and quick. Look forward to the launch of your website in February.

  7. Wonderful innovative idea that we could certainly utilise, but as dx coeliacs, fructose, fodmap, lactose free and toss into mix diabetic type one – would be great if some meals were suitable for these people too. Would love to know when website is up and running!

  8. What fantastic work and your willingness to share your information, recipes and knowledge to other community services for the aged is very gracious of Beehive. Looking forward to finding out more so I too can assist our clients with food prep and nutritional meals choices. Would love to assist our widowed male clients with the dilemma of cooking & sharing a good meal. Also part of Social Support for our Seniors
    thank you

  9. Thanks for all of the feedback
    We have just launched the website it is still being developed as the program doesn’t commence for another month
    As the program rolls out we will add more photos , recipes and also short videos of each session . We have had a great response and I am looking forward to our first cooking demo by Kumar in February.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly with Wendy, there is no joy in eating alone day in day out. I simply cannot be bothered cooking a meal and tend to stick to simple sandwiches or a pastie. I had a big family and cooked mountains of food and I now find that easy is better. I don’t drive so shopping is a nightmare also. I rely on buses, taxis and grocery delivery.
    Thanks to Beehive and all concerned for giving the aged some ideas on coping and perhaps to stay independent at home.

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