Meals on Wheels in Fort Dodge

It’s about much more than just providing something to eat

A nutritious meal, friendly face and safety check can make a world of difference for elderly and other homebound individuals in our community. Meals on Wheels in Fort Dodge delivered its first meals on March 1 of this year and since that time has delivered over 2,000 meals to the homebound and some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Meals on Wheels delivers a hot meal to recipients Monday through Friday.

Senior hunger in the U.S. is a big problem. More than 8.3 million seniors across the country face the threat of hunger on a regular basis according to the Meals on Wheels Association of America. In Webster County 17 percent of our population is over the age of 65, as compared to a national average of 13 percent. One in eight are food insecure. Sixteen percent of our seniors live at or below poverty level and 7 percent of senior households have an annual income of less than $10,000.

Allowing older adults to stay in their homes, where they want to be, helps reduce health care costs. The Meals on Wheels Association estimates one day in a hospital costs more than providing Meals on Wheels to seniors for a year.

That’s a pretty good return on an investment. But, more than that, Meals on Wheels improves the quality of life for our recipients. Meals on Wheels delivery volunteers provide social interaction to our meal recipients who are just as starved for companionship as they are for a nutritious meal. Visiting with delivery volunteers can truly be a highlight of their day. Studies show that seniors who received meals were less lonely, felt less isolated, and felt more confident about living independently in their own homes.

Successful Meals on Wheels programs are often built on a foundation of strong community partnerships. Our Meals on Wheels Fort Dodge program appreciates the partnerships we have with UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge, Webster County Health Department and Elderbridge Agency on Aging as they are important partners for referring people who need the services of our program. In addition, citizens in our community also play an important role in referring people to the program. If you know of loved ones, neighbors or friends that might benefit from the Meals on Wheels program in Fort Dodge please contact me at 571-0174 and I will follow up with them immediately.

The two critical components of the Meals on Wheels program are volunteers and funding. No question, the heart of the Meals on Wheels program is our dedicated volunteers. Volunteers deliver meals Monday through Friday but also provide a friendly face and safety check. It doesn’t take long, only an hour a day, a few weeks out of the year, but it could be the best hour of your day. Delivery volunteers can literally be lifesavers. They can be the first person to discover a fall or health problem and can quickly call for help. Recently, a Meals on Wheels volunteer discovered a meal recipient on the floor. If it had not been for the volunteer, that individual could have laid on the floor without assistance for days. Pope John Paul II said, “A measure of society is how it treats children and the elderly.” Our volunteers speak volumes about how we care for our seniors in Fort Dodge.

Like any nonprofit program, funding is also critical to the sustained success of the program. Meal recipients are charged a small fee for the meals. All meals are priced on a sliding fee scale in order to make it affordable for everyone. No one is denied service for lack of resources. Over 50 percent of recipients receive meals free or at a reduced cost. Hy-Vee of Fort Dodge is a great partner for our Meals on Wheels program. Hy-Vee is our food provider and does a wonderful job of preparing hot, nutritious meals every day.

The Meals on Wheels program in Fort Dodge is privately funded. We receive no government assistance. Born out of a need to address hunger issues for the frail elderly in our community, the program was initiated and supported by the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way. Grants, corporate gifts and private contributions continue to support the program. Contributions, volunteers, and referrals are always welcome and much appreciated.

The valuable work done by Meals on Wheels Fort Dodge deserves our community’s support. You can do that by offering your time and/or financial backing to this program.

To refer a recipient or volunteer, contact Barbara Michaels, program coordinator at bjmichaels@frontiernet.net or 571-0174. Contributions to Meals on Wheels Fort Dodge can be made to the Community Foundation at 24 N. Ninth St., Suite B, Fort Dodge IA 50501.

Barb Michaels is program coordinator of Meals on Wheels in Fort Dodge.