About People – Not Food

Did you know that Meals on Wheels was founded in Great Britain during World War II? It was a way to keep people fed when their homes (and ability to cook) were destroyed in air raids during the Blitz. Women serving in the Women’s Voluntary Service would ride tricycles around their communities, delivering hot meals; thus, the name “Meals on Wheels.”

It proved such a successful program in keeping elderly and frail people fed and healthier, that it continued after the war, expanding to Austria, Canada, and Ireland. It was introduced in the United States in 1954 at the request of the Philadelphia Health & Welfare Council.

In 2016, the Meals on Wheels Association of America reported that local Meals on Wheels organizations provided 218 million meals to 2.5 million Americans, with approximately 500,000 being Veterans. Research shows that home-delivered meal programs significantly improve quality nutrition, reduce food insecurity, and improve quality-of-life among the recipients. Local programs also lower government expenditures by reducing the hospitalizations, the need for long-term nursing care, and other expensive community-based services.

During the pandemic, the Redmond Senior Center is providing Meals on Wheels in and around Redmond for more than 120 people every weekday. Largely funded by community support and federal grants to the Central Oregon Council on Aging, meals are delivered by more than 60 volunteers like Janice Rank.

Rank, a retired college professor, has been driving for Meals on Wheels through the Redmond Senior Center for ten years. It was always part of her “retirement plan to keep busy helping others.”

“As a teacher who taught psychology, human development and aging, I know how important it is to be engaged helping others for my own health and wellbeing,” Rank says. “I also know there was greater need for resources and volunteers helping with senior populations.”

Before the pandemic, Rank usually drove on Mondays, taking her father with her on her route. However, since volunteers have been in short supply and demand has increased over the last year, she has been driving almost every day, delivering an average of 12 meals a day, and covering about 30 miles around Redmond, Crooked River Ranch, Terrebonne, and Tetherow Crossing.

“It’s beautiful countryside,” she says. “And my dad loves the drive on Monday; it’s our time to visit and catch up.”

Visiting is definitely part of the role of a Meals on Wheels volunteer, Rank explains. “At least it was.”

Delivering the meal directly inside the home was the norm before things shut down in March 2020. “I could stop and chat for a few minutes, observe how the home was being kept, or help with a small task. I was always looking for indications that a wellness visit might be needed. Now, I hand out business cards and ask them to call me if they need help with anything.”

“Mostly, I’ve formed friendships,” Rank says. “And I miss them.”

Meals on Wheels During the Pandemic

A new survey conducted by Meals on Wheels America found nearly all local programs have experienced increased demand, with four in five programs reporting that new meal requests have doubled since March 1, 2020.

  • 89% of programs have seen an increase in meal requests; of those, 79% report the number of new requests for meals has at least doubled.
    • 17% of West Coast programs are seeing 900% more new requests for meals per week.
  • Programs are serving 56% more meals and 22% more seniors per week.
    • 29% of rural programs have increased the number of seniors served by 50% or more.
  • Waiting lists for meals, which existed before the COVID-19 crisis, have grown by 26%
  • Aside from funding, 63% of programs report that acquiring safety supplies (gloves, masks, etc.) is the biggest challenge.

Need Help with Meals? Technically, to qualify for Meals on Wheels, you need to be 60 or older and be home-bound or have difficulty shopping for or preparing meals. However, the Redmond Senior Center provides meals to anyone who requests them. Call 541-548-6325 for more information.

Want to Volunteer? Meals on Wheels volunteers need to have reliable transportation, current license and insurance, a good driving record, and pass a background check. You can find the application at www.redmondseniors.org/volunteer or by calling 541-548-6325. Routes generally take about two hours between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm; mileage is reimbursed at the federal rate. 

Rank, a retired college professor, has been driving for Meals on Wheels through the Redmond Senior Center for ten years. It was always part of her “retirement plan to keep busy helping others.”

“As a teacher who taught psychology, human development and aging, I know how important it is to be engaged helping others for my own health and wellbeing,” Rank says. “I also know there was greater need for resources and volunteers helping with senior populations.”

Before the pandemic, Rank usually drove on Mondays, taking her father with her on her route. However, since volunteers have been in short supply and demand has increased over the last year, she has been driving almost every day, delivering an average of 12 meals a day, and covering about 30 miles around Redmond, Crooked River Ranch, Terrebonne, and Tetherow Crossing.

“It’s beautiful countryside,” she says. “And my dad loves the drive on Monday; it’s our time to visit and catch up.”

Visiting is definitely part of the role of a Meals on Wheels volunteer, Rank explains. “At least it was.”

Delivering the meal directly inside the home was the norm before things shut down in March 2020. “I could stop and chat for a few minutes, observe how the home was being kept, or help with a small task. I was always looking for indications that a wellness visit might be needed. Now, I hand out business cards and ask them to call me if they need help with anything.”

“Mostly, I’ve formed friendships,” Rank says. “And I miss them.”

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