For many seniors, life is uncertain. As we age, our health tends to decline naturally. Frequent doctor’s visits paired with decreased income and mobility mean sometimes the seniors in our community have to make difficult choices.
These choices may look like deciding between buying critical medication or nutritionally balanced food. Of course, every situation is different, but it’s common for seniors to skip medications to make them last longer or skip meals to stretch the budget.
Here at Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa, we can not solve all of these problems. We can only offer help. Our meal delivery program brings healthy and nutritious meals straight to the doors of seniors in need. And there are many ways this program can change the lives of seniors in our community.
Reduce Food Insecurity
Food insecurity in America is a huge problem that is only getting worse. The Covid 19 pandemic and the rising cost of groceries have taken a toll on everyone. Isolated seniors with a disability or chronic health problems have been hit especially hard.
The USDA recognizes two types of food insecurity. The first is low food security. Low food security refers to situations where a person or family has enough food to eat, but the food may lack variety or nutritional value. This is common in cases where there are no grocery stores close by, but there are gas stations. Gas station food is usually packaged food with little nutritional value. When this type of food makes up a large portion of a diet, it causes nutritional deficiencies.
This situation tends to happen when a senior who lives on their own cannot easily get to the grocery store or cannot cook food for themselves. Premade food is faster and easier to get but makes for a poor diet.
Very low food security refers to a situation where a senior cannot get enough food, usually because of a lack of money. Several factors can contribute to this. In this situation, a senior may skip meals when hungry or eat very small portions to stretch their food further. With low food security, the person affected will feel physical hunger more often than they should because they are not getting enough food.
Both types of food insecurity can lead to short and long-term problems. When a senior’s diet is nutrient deficient, they may experience more health problems, and current problems may worsen. An underfed body will be stressed and unable to fight off sickness.
A meal delivery program like Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa fights back against food insecurity. The meals provided ensure that each senior has regular meals and will not go hungry. They also offer nutritionally balanced meals with a variety of foods. This helps to guarantee each senior has a nutritionally balanced diet.
Save Money and Reduce Food Waste
Even when seniors can go shopping, long-term health problems or disabilities may prevent them from being able to cook as often as they need to. Even with fresh and nutritious ingredients in the house, they may go to waste if no one is eating them before they go bad. Someone with chronic health problems may be able to cook once a week but not every day. Or they have help a few days a week but have to figure out meals for the rest of the week.
A meal delivery program can help cut down on the need for some groceries and provide ready-to-go meals. That way, residents can buy fewer groceries and focus on cooking good food less often, instead of just trying to use up what they have. This saves seniors money, time, effort, and reduces the amount of food thrown away.
Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa and our partners understand many seniors’ situations; we do not charge for our delivered meals. On average, our meals cost about $5, and we accept contributions toward the cost. But we do not make recipients pay anything because we understand that some seniors are on extremely tight budgets and cannot afford to contribute.
Ensure Better Nutrition
When a senior receives a meal from Meals on Wheels, they can be confident that they are receiving a nutritionally balanced meal with the correct portion sizes. Our healthy meals are part of a program designed by dietitians to ensure that each meal is balanced with the proper portions of each food group and all the necessary nutrients. Not only that, but the meals vary by season, so seniors get variety in their meals and will be able to eat fruits and vegetables when they are in season. All the food is fresh and may help broaden horizons by exposing seniors to foods they may not have tried before.
Nutrition is vitally important for a senior’s health. When seniors don’t receive adequate nutrition, their immune system is weakened. They have an increased risk of worsening chronic conditions or developing new ones. The lack of proper nutrition can also lead to muscle loss, which increases the risk of falls and causes injuries to heal slower. And this, in turn, contributes to the loss of independence when seniors can no longer live in their own homes because they are prone to falls or develop chronic conditions.
Our bodies cannot function properly without a good diet. Healthy meals with the proper vitamins and minerals will not stop the process of aging. But it will provide a foundation for healthy living.
Become Part of a Network
We recognize that delivering food only solves some problems. But we have a network to offer seniors other kinds of help. When they sign up, each senior is assigned an intake manager who can offer referrals and additional support for many issues. This could include providing a referral to a mental health program or contacting a company to get mobility aids installed in the home.
The volunteers who deliver to each house act as the eyes and ears of the organization and check in on each resident as they go through their route. They also provide company to socially isolated seniors, which can help reduce mental health problems like depression and anxiety. With this approach, we aim to improve the lives of all of the seniors in our program in whatever way we can.
Why Meal Delivery Programs are Important
Our senior meal delivery program is designed to reduce food insecurity in our community while saving money and cutting down on food waste. It ensures that seniors eat healthy, balanced meals and get all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Our program also connects seniors to a community network that will help them in many aspects of their lives. Meal delivery programs are designed to improve a senior’s life, not just with food, but with a whole program that considers life’s difficulties.
Who Qualifies for Meals on Wheels?
We only have a few requirements to qualify. Clients must be homebound and at least 60 years old. They must also be unable to prepare nutritious meals for themselves regularly. The seniors who qualify are usually in great need because of disability, disease, or isolation. Check out our FAQ for a more in-depth look at the requirements for qualification and an explanation of how the program works.