Senior Meals: More to Meal Delivery than Food

Published Date Monday, 24 November 2014 13:19


What’s a simpler idea than Meals on Wheels? Older people who are homebound, those have trouble driving, cooking or shopping, or paying for food, sign up at Senior Meals. Each day, volunteers or staff come by and drop off a hot lunch. Here in Coos County through Tri-County CAP, Senior Meals take on the threat of senior hunger and work to promote
healthy aging and for the county elders in their own homes.

At the meal site in Berlin at the old Guardian Angel School, you’ll walk into volunteers stuffing slices of whole wheat bread, pints of low-fat milk and containers of sliced peaches into paper bags. The kitchen staff would be packing the day’s entree which happens to be braised pork loin with gravy, red potatoes and turnips, into aluminum trays. Drivers would fan out through the community and for that fact, the county; Twin Mountain to Pittsburg delivering nutritious daily meals to over 600 clients in their homes.
The benefit goes beyond food, of course. When clients answer the door, often using walkers and canes, “I ask them how their morning’s going,” said a deliverer, George Koxarakis who makes many other stops this day. “I give them their meal, I say, ‘Have a good day.’ They tell me, ‘You have a nice day, too.'” This may represent the only face-to-face social interaction some home bound people have in the course of a day. And if they don’t come to the door, a series of phone calls ensues. “We’ve had people yell back, ‘I’m on the floor and I can’t get up.’ It doesn’t happen only in commercials,” said Leila Villeneuve, the program’s manager.
There’s certainly more than food in a Meals-on-Wheels delivery. Advocates have always believed that something this fundamental… a hot meal, a greeting, another set of eyes, can help keep people in their homes longer. Research from the Administration on Aging discovered the connection between home-delivered meals and the nursing home population. The research shows that individuals that are cared for in a community setting, with supports such as Meals-on-Wheels, home care and other elder services can age in place, in their homes. That’s how most older people prefer to live, which is reason enough to try to reserve nursing homes for those whose require their specialized care.
The Tri-County CAP Senior Meals program provides home-delivered and community dining throughout Coos County and has been doing this work for over 30 years. Last year they sent 101,000 meals to homes and hosted nearly 31,000 meals in community sites. The need is increasing as are the costs to do this important work such as food and fuel which have had more than a 30% hike since 2012.
Funding relies on many supporters; from the federal funds that are matched by local dollars throughout the towns and county to the community fundraisers and donations from citizens. “It’s a tapestry of dollars that come from many places, each contributing an important funding source for the mission of providing senior nutrition” says Patti Stolte the Director of the program, “we have been able to have great success in making these dollars go as far as possible.”
Food is donated from sources such as Fresh Rescue, where grocers provide much needed provisions as well as from local growers and the New Hampshire Food Bank. The program even received grants last year from Wal-Mart and Citizen’s Bank to help support the growing needs of the program.
These meals are a significant factor in helping adults 60 years and older to stay healthy and remain in their homes. It can be a big step for an older person or his family to acknowledge that they need this kind of basic help and make the call. The staff of Meals-on-Wheels hopes that people know that it is an easy thing to do. “You can call our sites in Berlin, Whitefield and Colebrook, whichever is closest to the town you live in and arrange a visit to get the ball rolling” added Leila Villenueve. She reports that people are amazed at how easy and full-filling the experience with Senior Meals can be. Coos County contacts for Tri-County CAP’s Senior Meals program are: 752-2545 in Berlin, 837-2424 in Whitefield and 237-4957 in Colebrook.

Leila Villeneuve is the program manager for Senior Meals

Berlin Daily Sun