What is Meals on Wheels?
In 1954 in Philadelphia, a group of local citizens began delivering meals to housebound seniors and anyone else that couldn’t feasibly make it to the grocery store on their own. In the years since, the idea has caught on and grown into the national Meals on Wheels program that serves 2.5 million seniors every year throughout the country.
Meals on Wheels’ volunteers help with food preparation, food delivery, and regular check-ins to help seniors who choose to age in place to do so with minimal issues.
Why Does Meals on Wheels Matter?
As the population of seniors continues to grow, many are choosing to stay in their homes as long as possible. On the one hand, this is often more affordable than moving into a nursing home or other senior living facility. On the other, it comes with certain risks. 25% of seniors live alone, which puts them at a higher risk of loneliness and depression and can mean if they hurt themselves, it’s harder to get help. Additionally, 9.3 million struggle with hunger, either because of the costs of food or because getting to the store and cooking for themselves is unrealistic.
Meals on Wheels helps on both fronts. In addition to providing meals, the volunteers who deliver the food offer some company as well. Housebound seniors get a little more social interaction in their lives and don’t have to worry about the logistics of staying fed.
Meals on Wheels America also emphasizes the savings their service provides to the larger community. Seniors that live in nursing homes cost Medicare and Medicaid billions each year – if more of those seniors can be safe and healthy at home, it saves us all money in tax dollars.
What Cities do They Serve?
The Meals on Wheels program has grown steadily over the years to serve almost every community in the United States. They have over 5,000 independently run local programs, often working at the county level. That means no matter where you are in the United States, you can probably sign up to help as a volunteer, or to have meals delivered to you if you can’t manage them on your own.
How to Get Involved as a Volunteer
Volunteers have a number of different roles they can play in the organization. You can choose between food prep, delivery, administrative work, helping out at events the organization puts on, and committing to call and check in with seniors on a regular basis.
If you’re interested in signing up to volunteer with Meals on Wheels you can find more information and apply here. If you’re not sure you can manage the time commitment, but still want to help, you can always give a donation.
How to Sign Up for Meals
If your loved one has been having trouble taking care of their own meals and you think they might qualify for Meals on Wheels, search for the closest program to them by zip code and go to the local program’s website to sign up.
No senior should have to worry about being able to do something as basic as eating. If you’re in a good position to help out others, volunteering can be a great opportunity to meet some new people and stay active. If your body’s become too uncooperative to manage errands and food preparation, go ahead and ask for help. You don’t have to face the struggle alone.