UPDATED AND CORRECTED – December 16, 2010 – After January 1, Meals on Wheels friendly volunteers will no longer deliver a daily hot meal to elderly and homebound residents in Washington County, and will be searching for continuing funding for Ramsey County operations. The Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging (MAAA) has decided to contract with Presbyterian Homes to deliver frozen meals once a week, using paid drivers. The $400,000 in funding comes from the senior nutrition program known as Title III from the Older Americans Act. In Hennepin County, MOW has a contract with Volunteers of America through MAAA and that contract was just renewed.
MAAA’s website maintains they are dedicated to “advancing models of service that stress efficiency, consumer choice and innovation.”
UPDATE: In a phone interview on December 16, Meals On Wheels executive director Patrick Rowan said that Ramsey County operations will continue, even without the MAAA funding. Rowan said that the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted in December to provide $200,000 for Meals On Wheels to continue its 10 Ramsey County programs for 2011, with the caveat that the organization needs to raise money from other sources for future years. Meals On Wheels will not be able to continue services in Washington County after January 1.
MOW asserts that its program has provided efficiency, choice and innovation as well through each of its programs. With a dedicated volunteer base and 30 years experience, MOW delivers over 4,000 daily meals. Executive director Patrick Rowan said that one-third of all their clients rely on that daily meal.
There are also options for weekly deliver of frozen meals, vegetarian or ethnically or dietary specific. Meals on Wheels has recently partnered with another local, nonprofit, Open Arms of MN, that will create a diverse menu of locally grown organic meal options offering recipients opportunities to customize their menu accessing healthy and fresh food.
The Meals on Wheels website bears the motto: “Meals on Wheels – It’s more than a meal.” Rowan, like many of the volunteer drivers, managers, and other workers of MOW, believes that it isn’t just food they serve up daily for their clients.
And they have the stories to back that up.
There’s the story about John (not his real name), who was a recluse living in a boarding house. He had no family and usually sat outside to wait for the volunteer to deliver his daily meal. One day he wasn’t there and when the volunteer driver knocked on his door, John told him to just leave the meal. The driver said he didn’t answer when he asked if he was alright and when he couldn’t get him to answer the door, Meals on Wheels contacted 911. The landlord did not have keys to his apartment so the fire department axed the door. They found John on the floor where he had fallen a day before. He was taken to the hospital and later recovered but only because they found him in time.
Another volunteer driver who is a retired nurse told the story of a 90-year-old woman on her route. She lived alone and she would visit with her daily. One day the woman told her she had a doctor’s appointment for her leg. The woman showed her the leg and the driver was shocked to see the condition of it and got her into see the doctor right away. The woman was later hospitalized because the condition was serious. The client was so thankful that when she was released from the hospital, she went to her local Meals on Wheels office to tell them how grateful she was someone had taken the time to be concerned.
Metro Meals on Wheels (MOW) is the association of 40 Meals on Wheels programs in the seven-county Twin Cities metro. MOW has a 30-year history of providing daily food delivery in the Twin Cities to the elderly and homebound residents. With the use of volunteer drivers, MOW not only delivers daily nutritious meals but it also provides daily contact with another human being.
Although they lost the funding, the testimonials did rile up the community and perhaps set the stage for the program to be more organized and to build an infrastructure for when the bid goes out again for Ramsey and Washington County. MOW wants to ensure competitive service but to also stay focused on their mission of not only providing meals but that vital connection with the outside world so their clients do not feel so isolated and alone. Rowan said that they want to do what it takes so that they make sure they don’t lose funding in other areas.
“We’re not going away,” Rowan said.
People interested in finding out about the Meals on Wheels program can go to their website. If you know anyone in need of assistance for meals in the metro area, call 612-623-3363 for more information.