The local Grey Power president has criticised plans to centralise hospital food and reheat Meals on Wheels for Bay pensioners.
The Government is proposing an overhaul of the provision of hospital meals, with an estimated saving of up to $175 million over 15 years.
Food production would be streamlined by creating two hubs - in Auckland and Christchurch - with meals transported to the regions and reheated.
Coastal Bay of Plenty and Districts Grey Power president Ruth Dekker told the Bay of Plenty Times the proposals disappointed her.
"I wondered about goodness. One presumes people are in hospital needing good food; [but] food that's been cooked and carried around and so on doesn't sound as though it's going to be very marvellous," she said.
Malyon House director Cecily Munro said her company provided 50 to 60 hot Meals on Wheels in Mount Maunganui and Te Puke daily, but as a private company, it would not be affected by the Government proposals.
Meals cost about $9, depending on delivery charges. "We do a meat and vegetable meal and a dessert."
The proposed services to hospital meals wouldn't change much, she said.
"Most hospitals are probably providing cook-chill meals anyway. I think cook-chill is perfectly legitimate.
"I guess the issue is jobs for people in locations where the hospitals are."
The Government's plans to out-source hospital food services would affect thousands of vulnerable pensioners receiving hot lunches through Meals on Wheels, Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said.
Health Benefits, a government-owned organisation set up to find savings by reducing duplication and administration costs, drew up the plan.
Health Minister Tony Ryall confirmed there would be staffing cuts, but declined to say how many.
Closing or downsizing some of the nation's 39 hospital kitchens that 20 district health boards operated had not been ruled out.
But Mr Ryall stressed the quality of meals provided to patients would be paramount and not compromised.
Nationally agreed diets and nutrition standards would be incorporated into the plan.
Ms King said the 1.2 million Meals on Wheels provided in New Zealand annually would be "prepped, plated, chilled, frozen and stored" at the two sites before being transported to regional hubs for storage, then sent on to hospitals for re-heating, and finally delivered to clients.
Some meals would still be made on-site.
"Meals on Wheels provides lunches to some of our most vulnerable and most isolated older people," Ms King said.
"There are already concerns that recipients are not receiving standard information about re-heating, freezing and defrosting," she said.
"Transporting these frozen, pre-packaged meals halfway across the country before they are finally delivered raises even more questions about quality and safety."
Meals on Wheels cost clients from between $5 and $8, Ms King said.
The average cost of preparing a meal was expected to drop under the plans.
However rather than passing savings on to clients, the money would go towards other health services, Ms King said.
"Mr Ryall needs to fully explain how this proposal will reduce the cost and improve the quality of food for those who receive and pay for it."
Health Benefits is looking to sign a 15-year contract, with the preferred provider believed to be UK-based Compass Group, which Ms King told Parliament was linked to the recent European horse-meat scandal.
Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall said hospital services were good and the changes could cause health safety problems.