Do you qualify for some “wheely” good food?
“Currently, we have five people participating on Meals on Wheels, and in 2017, we had 25,” stated Semcac Senior Advocate Marite Olmstead, telling about the decline in Chatfield’s Meals on Wheels participation and the hope that more people choose to take advantage of the service.
Olmstead elaborated on the service provided through Semcac and the generosity of volunteers who deliver meals to people who are unable to cook or access healthful meals, “As long as we have volunteers to deliver meals, we will continue to have the Meals on Wheels (MOW) service. However, I think there are many seniors who could benefit from the Meals on Wheels service who aren’t currently using it.”
The advocate outlined that Meals on Wheels offers people the opportunity to have a balanced meal — or even two — delivered to their door each day by a friendly community volunteer who wants to brighten someone’s day.
“In Chatfield the meals are picked up from Chosen Valley Care Center, and each meal has a general diet serving of one third of the daily recommended dietary allowance — 2.5 to 3 ounces of a meat or alternate, two half-cup servings of a vegetable or fruit, one slice of bread with butter or margarine, half a cup of dessert, and a half pint of milk. We can provide meals seven days per week with no problem. If a person is determined to be at a high nutritional risk or there are possibly other circumstances why they need two meals per day, we can deliver up to two meals per day. The purpose of Meals on Wheels is to assist in keeping people independent and living in their own homes. We are also very flexible with meal schedules. We can make sure people get meals once a week to up to seven days a week. If people would like weekend meals, we can give them two meals on Thursday and two meals on Friday to cover for the weekend.”
She added, “Many older adults want to age in place in their own homes where they are comfortable. It’s rewarding for us because we can help them stay at home where they want to be. I think our deliverers and our recipients both make meaningful connections with each other. I think one of the perks of Meals on Wheels, for our clients, is that they get to see a friendly face almost daily, which kind of serves as a well-check, too. For many, they may not see people because they are unable to get out of their homes often.”
Olmstead cited that there are misconceptions about the Meals on Wheels program. “I think our misconception is that you have to be low-income to receive Meals on Wheels. Truly, our only requirement is that you have to be over 60 or married to someone over 60. If someone has a caregiver who is with them over the noon hour, we can deliver two meals so that they can eat together if they would like. We also do work closely with the county and accept various waivers for individuals who are disabled and need Meals on Wheels.”
She explained that Meals on Wheels aren’t free to everyone, but that if a person cannot pay, they will not be turned down.
“To pay for meals, recipients will receive a statement around the middle of each month that will list the number of meals that they have received the previous month. The statement asks for a suggested donation of $3.75 to $6.75 per meal. Recipients are to consider the donation to be as much as possible or what is considered fair. However, nobody is refused a meal if they are unable to pay. The donation, by check or money order, is mailed back to the Semcac office in a postage-paid envelope provided with the statement, and we do also accept EBT, SNAP, CADI, EW and AC waivers and insurance payment in the case of a hospital discharge.”
The guarantee that someone will be by each day to drop off meals and pick up the reusable microwave-safe trays that the meals come in has great benefits, according to the senior advocate, who pointed out the results of offering and participating in Meals on Wheels are healthier people, better care and more efficient spending on safety net programming.
She shared, “For over 45 years, Semcac Senior Nutrition has effectively improved the health outcomes and quality of life for seniors in southeastern Minnesota, while reducing risk, hospital readmissions and overall healthcare costs. Meals on Wheels provides the basic support that seniors need to maintain their health and independence.”
A brochure distributed to individuals interested in Meals on Wheels reads, “These older Americans will be provided with a meal which for many will be their main source of nutrition for the day. These older Americans will receive this meal in their home, versus in a hospital or nursing home. In fact, it has been estimated that an older adult can be fed for a year by Meals on Wheels for approximately the same cost as spending a day in a hospital or a week in a nursing home.”
According to the brochure, meal delivery keeps older adults safely at home, at dramatically less cost to the taxpayer. However, without the meals supplied by the program, many seniors would be prematurely placed in assisted living or nursing homes due to their inability to shop for food or prepare their own meals — many seniors face the threat of hunger due to limitations in their daily activities, such as difficulties with walking, breathing, meal preparation, eating and memory.
Many seniors live alone and do not have family or neighbors to help shop for or prepare meals. When a meal is provided to an older adult, they also have the occasion to interact with someone who cares about them, helping to reduce the real concern about isolation among older adults – meal delivery volunteers receive satisfaction and feel a deeper connection with their neighbors, and caregivers receive peace of mind, knowing their loved ones are being checked on daily.
Olmstead agreed with those points, noting, “This program saves taxpayers money. For the cost of one day in the nursing home or a hospital, we can provide several months or a year’s supply of meals. Proper nutrition and the daily well visit are sometimes all it takes to keep someone in their home.”
The program is always in need of more volunteers who can spare a day or a week of their pre-lunch hour.
“We are always looking for more Meals on Wheels delivery drivers, especially volunteers who will be willing to deliver in the case of a rural client,” she said. “You can volunteer for one day a week during a month, or for an entire week, whatever fits your schedule. People can volunteer in a variety of ways. We would love to have people doing tasks, from advertising to delivering to assisting with intakes, and more. The amount of time an individual or group wants to volunteer is up to them.”
She cited another part of the brochure, “Meals on Wheels volunteers touch the lives of seniors through time and service. Make a difference by brightening their day, showing them that people care, and by helping them feel in touch. As a volunteer, you can help seniors maintain an independent lifestyle, brighten the day of isolated and lonely seniors, work directly with your community, develop friendships with seniors and other kindhearted volunteers, make a difference, have fun and be inspired!”
Olmstead observed that Semcac has made efforts to let more people know that there’s “wheely” good food awaiting them if they choose to participate in Meals on Wheels.
“We have placed Meals on Wheels tear-offs around town, as well as putting up posters. It has been in church newsletters and bulletins, as well as online. We are always looking for free avenues to advertise our services, so interested individuals can get more information. We are here! We would love to provide hot, fresh and nutritious, locally-cooked meals for you, your loved ones, your friends and your neighbors.”
For more information on how to participate in Meals on Wheels or to volunteer, contact Carolyn Freese at Semcac’s Senior Nutrition office at 507-864-8228.