Meals on Wheels is a food delivery program that brings prepared meals to homebound seniors. Through the hard work of community members, food is prepared and delivered to each senior’s doorstep.
But these nutritious meals are more than they seem. This program helps seniors age in place and live in their homes by fighting senior hunger, malnutrition, and isolation. Besides meal delivery, Meals on Wheels offers social interactions and resources to help seniors stay safe and comfortable in their homes.
But this fantastic program is only possible because of community support. So much of the funding comes from fundraising efforts and donations. And the meals wouldn’t be prepared or delivered without the help of so many wonderful volunteers. Community support is truly the backbone of Meals on Wheels. Without that support, thousands of vulnerable seniors would go hungry or be forced to move to assisted living facilities.
The Role of Volunteers in Meals on Wheels
Volunteers are vital to Meal on Wheels. They take time out of their days and deliver meals to members of the community who need a little more help. And as if bringing food wasn’t enough, they usually stop to check in with residents to make sure everything is ok.
One study explored the relationships between Meal on Wheels volunteer drivers and those on their route. Interviews showed that volunteers would often perform tasks around the house, call utility companies on behalf of the residents, and even do yard work. And if there were a problem they could not personally solve, they would get the proper resources for the resident.
Volunteers feel a connection when they deliver to the same person for years. They learn all about each person on their route. Because they deliver food, they may learn what food each resident likes or dislikes and their dietary restrictions. But they also learn all about the resident’s life and what they’re passionate about. Simply being present in someone’s life and listening to them can make such a difference. Volunteers can make a senior’s life easier in so many small ways.
Because the volunteers are often the only person a senior will talk to each day, the social interaction provided by a check-in is so important to help seniors from feeling isolated and lonely. During the pandemic, face-to-face interactions had to be limited, so some volunteers called seniors on their route on the phone to perform a check-in instead of doing it in person.
But these volunteer opportunities don’t just benefit the seniors who receive meals. Interviews show that the volunteers found delivering meals fulfilling and that many were so grateful to make a difference in people’s lives.
Volunteering for a great cause can help the volunteers feel more connected to their community. It gives them a greater sense of purpose and makes them feel wonderful about themselves. When we do something nice for another person, it makes us feel good too. All in all, volunteer opportunities are a great way to get out of the house, be active, and connect to your community meaningfully.
Across all Meal on Wheels programs, an estimated 2 million volunteers are working hard to bring meals to homebound seniors in their communities. But the population of the United States is aging, and it’s estimated that the capacity of Meals on Wheels will have to increase by 75% in the coming years. That means that the need for community support is only growing.
Local Community Support for Meals on Wheels
Community support is so important for Meals on Wheels. The biggest ways that communities can show their support is through volunteering and donations. But local businesses and organizations can show their support as well.
Community support is vital because a business or organization can make larger donations and encourage more people to get involved than an individual. Many programs designed just for corporations encourage donations and volunteer opportunities through business. This includes fundraisers, gift matching, and corporate volunteer opportunities.
So many companies give back to Meals on Wheels and support their local seniors. This includes larger corporations like Home Depot, Petsmart, and Food Lion Feeds. But in every community, you can find corporations and individuals giving back to support those in their neighborhood that need the most help.
Public and Private Funding for Meals on Wheels
Although Meals on Wheels exists all across the county, each program is run independently. That means that funding will look different for each community. The programs may receive federal funding from the Older Americans Act, Medicaid, and the USDA. Unfortunately, this funding rarely meets the needs of all the seniors in need in a community. To fill in the gap, more help is needed.
Donations from individuals, organizations, and corporations keep these programs going. Without the community’s help, Meals on Wheels could never meet the demand for spots on the delivery routes.
And there are so many ways to donate. Individuals can give money, gifts, cars, or even leave a legacy gift. There’s no one size fits all. Every donation is welcome and helps put food directly on the table of seniors in your community.
Opportunities for Community Involvement with Meals on Wheels
Besides private donations or individual volunteering, there are many opportunities for community involvement in Meals on Wheels.
Corporations can partner with the program through Workplace Giving, which allows employees to give gifts through their workplace. A business could also plan a volunteer event for employees or a fundraiser. Matching Giving also allows for double the donation – check with your employer to see if they offer a matching!
Each of the local programs will have different ways for community involvement. Some partner with local youth groups or charity programs. But community programs are always helpful because they raise awareness about the problems faced by homebound seniors and the many ways that each member of the community can step up and help.
The importance of community support for Meals on Wheels cannot be overstated. The Covid 19 pandemic made the need for the program more vital than ever as so many seniors became newly homebound. And as the population ages, the need for more donations, funding, and volunteers will continue to increase. The older adults in our communities need help, and Meals on Wheels is working hard to get that help to as many people as possible.
Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa
Check out what donations and volunteer options are available in your community, or just look closely at the program and how it is designed to help seniors stay in their homes safely. Meals on Wheels is more than just a meal service. For many seniors, it’s a lifeline allowing them to live independently and with dignity. This is why it’s more important than ever to unite as a community and support each other.
These senior meal delivery services can be found nationwide and offer meals to homebound seniors in need. But with the ever-increasing need for more meals, these programs always welcome donations and volunteers. Because without the community’s support, Meals on Wheels wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand.
That’s where Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa comes in: we are the fundraising arm of our partner organizations. We help fund these other local Meals on Wheels programs. We are always helping fundraise and looking for volunteers: learn more about our efforts here.