Few programs deliver the sort of bang for the buck that Meals on Wheels manages to pull off.
Now, Meals on Wheels delivers a moral bang for the buck as well. It provides meals for seniors who aren’t able to prepare meals for themselves because of age, a medical condition or other disability and don’t have anyone to help prepare meals for them.
The meal delivery also provides a safety check for those people and a human connection to the outside world. It’s a service provided without regard to race, religion, national origin, sex, handicap or ability to pay.
From a human standpoint, it’s the right thing to do.
From a fiscal standpoint, it’s also the right thing to do.
Meals on Wheels helps people stay in their homes, as opposed to far more expensive alternatives. Meals on Wheels America estimates that every dollar invested in the program saves up to $50 in Medicaid spending. Another way of assessing its return is that the cost of providing a senior Meals on Wheels for a year is less than the cost of 10 days in a nursing home.
Currently there are 119 homebound seniors receiving Meals on Wheels across Jackson County. In the last fiscal year, volunteers helped deliver more than 24,400 meals here.
These aren’t just any meals, not a prepacked mass-produced collection thrown in a microwave. There’s a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and meat in the meals, which are developed and approved by a registered dietitian. Each daily menu must contain at least 700 calories consisting of 30 percent less fat with less than 1,300 mg of sodium. A vitamin C-rich food is offered at least once weekly. Special meals are developed for people with food allergies, diabetics or those who face issues chewing or swallowing.
A celebration of the program is set for Saturday with the March for Meals in Downtown Sylva. Participants will gather at the Jackson County Farmer’s Market on Railroad Avenue. Registration will begin at 11:30 a.m., and the march will take place at noon. All participants will receive a free T-shirt while supplies last. The event will recognize seniors who rely on the Meals and Wheels and seeks to recruit additional volunteers to deliver meals.
Currently, Meals on Wheels needs around 15 new volunteers to fill current routes or develop new ones. It’s not an onerous commitment; volunteers can spend as little as one hour a day, one day a week volunteering. Churches, business and civic groups can band together to have a route and rotate volunteer duties between members.
“Many homebound seniors in our area could go hungry without this vital program,” said Eddie Wells, director of the Jackson County Department on Aging, sponsor of Saturday’s event. “Together, we can keep seniors living independently, healthier at home and feeling more connected to their community as they age. We have additional seniors now who need the program, and that is why we are recruiting volunteers.”
We hope to see Jackson County step up and keep this worthwhile enterprise rolling.
For more information on volunteering for Meals on Wheels or participating in Saturday’s march, call 586-5494.