I know your organization – Shasta Senior Nutrition – is putting the word out about Meals on Wheels. What can you tell us about your program?
Seniors, aged 60 and older who are no longer able to prepare a meal for themselves for health reasons receive a nutritious noon meal Monday through Friday. This service provides a personal daily contact to isolated, frail elderly and helps seniors remain in their own homes, as opposed to being prematurely institutionalized. Donations are accepted, but no qualified senior is denied services based on ability to pay.
What is the need like here in the North State for Meals on Wheels?
The need for Meals on Wheels is increasing tremendously. Those with chronic conditions are no longer able to leave their homes and depend upon assistance in many activities of daily living. Annually, we provide over 74,000 meals to approximately 500 unduplicated seniors in their homes.
That’s a lot of meals. How many people work for Meals on Wheels locally?
Between the Burney and Redding SSNP location, approximately 16 persons are employed at least in part by Meals on Wheels. Additionally, as many as 30 volunteers provide services such as meal preparation assistance and meal delivery. There are seven routes served daily. For those who are outside our service area, a two weeks supply of freshly prepared frozen meals are delivered by volunteers.
What’s the history of the local Meals on Wheels program?
The Program has existed in Shasta County under the SSNP umbrella since 1979. Service areas are constantly changing based on the client needs and funding availability. Shasta Senior Nutrition Programs ( SSNP ) formed to assist seniors in preserving their independence by providing meals on wheels and other meal assistance, social services and senior activities. SSNP operates as an independent nonprofit public corporation under its parent company, Mercy Medical Center Redding and Catholic Healthcare West.
Let’s get to the practical side. Where does the food come from?
The food for Meals on Wheels is purchased from approved vendors. The food preparation takes place at Shasta Senior Nutrition Programs ( SSNP) kitchen. This kitchen prepares 500 to 1,000 meals a day to include the currant 260 home bound meals (MOW ). The food is prepared and approved by a registered Dietitian to meet 1/3 of the RDA requirements ( Recommend Dietary Allowance). It is considered “institutional cooking , but I’m not a fan of that word, we serve delicious, nutritious, balanced meals in VERY large quantities. Some of the recipes do have “grandma’s touch” that meet the needed requirements. The delivery trucks (“hot shots”) have a hot side and a cold side to make sure every thing is kept at the correct temperature.
The central kitchen in Redding prepares food for the greater Redding area clients, and the SSNP Burney Center prepares and packages the meals for the Intermountain area homebound.
Have you noticed an increase in the need for Meals on Wheels in our area?
Yes, there has been an 18% increase over the past year and a half, which equates to about an additional 11,500 meals annually.
Can you give an example of the typical senior served by Meals on Wheels?
We serve those over 60 years, and the largest group, 62% are over age 75. Females comprise 69%, and 61% live alone. 92% are at “high nutrition risk”. (A coordinator does an assessment on the potential recipient and each question has a number with it. If the answers total 6 then that person is considered high nutritional risk (HNR).) Customers may use our services temporarily, while recovering from medical procedures, or long term to assure their continued ability to remain living independently.
For example, there’s an 86-year-old recipient of Meals on Wheels who lives alone with her dog and 2 cats. She’s said, “It is a bright spot in my day when the door bell rings and there is the Meals on Wheels Driver is there with a friendly hello, warm smile and a hot nutritious meal and treats for the dog and cats. I know someone will visit me that day and some one cares. The weekends are lonely for me I look forward to Mondays.”
But Meals on Wheels is so much more than just a meal. It’s a daily contact that many isolated seniors depend upon. Our Delivery Drivers have saved the lives of customers who were in dire conditions, such as a fall or health distress.
What can you tell us about this current campaign to get the word out about Meals on Wheels?
Shasta Senior Nutrition Programs is a member of the Meals on Wheels Association of America. The association often offers grant oppportunities to members through campaigns. Currently the Association is running a campaign of WE are Meals on Wheels.
This current campaign is “Awareness” of the program nationally and locally. The objective is to contact as many people and make them aware of the programs. SSNP contacted you as a media source. Other sources we are using are bumper stickers in unusual places and taking pictures of them. A bumper sticker says “WE ARE MEALS on
WHEELS” placed on, for example, a fire truck. The organization that accomplishes this in the most unique and highest number of contacts is then invited to request a grant proposal.
How can people who need this service or require more information reach you?
Contact info for the meals on wheels program is Carole Means at 530-226-3061.
Debbie McClung is the Executive Director of the Shasta Senior Nutrition Program and has worked for the SSNP since 1980. She was raised in the Intermountain Area (Burney, Fall River Mills), and has been a resident of Shasta County since 1961. She celebrates 42 years of marriage, and is the mother of two adult sons and grandmother of 5.