Every morning, in kitchens and community centers across America, an army mobilizes around a lifesaving mission – to prepare and deliver millions of nourishing meals into the hands of seniors in need.
Meals on Wheels is a coalition of 5,000 community-based, non-profit programs which together form a nationwide safety net for some of the most fragile and vulnerable members of our society. Every local program is home grown, a specific and sensitive response to the realities on the ground in the unique community they serve. But every program also shares a common goal – to help seniors live healthier, more connected lives in their own homes.
Neighbors in need
Meals on Wheels is a simple extension of the compassionate, age-old impulse to come to the aid of a neighbor in need – especially when that neighbor is elderly and struggling with hunger, isolation or debilitating health issues. In such cases – and they are heartbreakingly common – even the most basic interventions can provide relief, independence and even joy.
For a 92-year-old widow recovering from a mild stroke, Meals on Wheels makes it possible to stay in the home she shared with her late husband for 68 years. The modest ranch house where they raised their children and grew old together is her “happy place,” the place where her most cherished memories were made. Since her children live out of state, remaining in her home would be impossible without a daily nutritious meal and “check in” from a Meals on Wheels volunteer.
Across the country, a Marine veteran relies on local Meals on Wheels volunteers, several of whom are also veterans, both for daily meals and for transportation to medical appointments for a chronic debilitating condition linked to his military service. He credits their support and companionship with helping him “stay strong” and remain proudly independent despite the health challenges he continues to face. Knowing he can count on a hot meal and a friendly face at the door every day has made all the difference.
Compassion in action
There are literally millions of these success stories, made possible by compassionate volunteers of every age and background in every corner of the country. A high school student trekking through Midwest snowstorms to deliver food to homebound seniors in an isolated farm town. A retired city manager pausing to chat with Meals on Wheels recipients in an urban high-rise. A “transplant” to a new town volunteering with Meals on Wheels to get to know his new neighbors.
Depending on the needs and resources of a community, Meals on Wheels sometimes provides services in addition to daily meals: senior center meal programs for mobile seniors; home repair services to ensure that seniors’ homes are safe and sound; pet food deliveries to sustain beloved companions; and transportation assistance for seniors who can no longer drive. Each community program sets its own fees and payment policies based on local conditions; contributions from donors, foundations and government programs provide the remainder of the program’s funding.
A national crisis
Americans over 85 years of age are the fastest growing segment of our population. Add to that the fact that the number of seniors nationwide is projected to double over the next several decades, and what you have is an emerging social and humanitarian crisis. Already, nearly 20 million seniors live at or near the poverty line in the United States. Many of them face life-or-death issues alone due to the dissolution of multi-generational households and a woefully inadequate civic response to the many challenges of an aging population.
It’s a daunting and complex issue. But it’s also a call to action, one that Meals on Wheels answers 2.4 million times (and counting) every day in communities large and small, urban and rural, privileged and poverty-stricken. By cooking. By driving. By showing up and showing concern. Because caring for those in our society who once nurtured us is both a fundamental responsibility and a profound privilege.To find out more about how you can help Meals on Wheels nourish and sustain vulnerable seniors, visit www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org or your local Meals on Wheels organization. To learn more about how Legistics can help your company thrive, visit our home page