Meals On Wheels is a program that aims to eliminate food insecurity among seniors. Senior hunger is a year round issue, but can become more prevalent during the winter months.
According to Feeding America, one in six seniors are considered food insecure. This means about 57,000 seniors in Idaho may be dealing with the issue of food insecurity, which can create negative impacts on their health.
Through the program, volunteer drivers or employees deliver meals to people who are 60 and older, cannot drive, or are too frail to prepare their own meals.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to senior hunger. Metro Meals On Wheels CEO Grant Jones said cost is one of those factors.
“They’ll determine if they need prescriptions, if they need pets for their pets, or food for themselves and often they will go without,” Jones said.
He said some seniors believe they are undeserving of the meals and others may have too much pride to accept help.
No matter the weather conditions, the programs deliver meals seven days a week.
Each weekday, the Twin Falls Meals on Wheels delivers about 200 meals and Boise’s Metro Meals on Wheels delivers more than 1,500 meals.
In 2021, Meals on Wheels programs saw a demand increase due to COVID-19.
“All of us across the state of Idaho, all the meals on wheels programs, need to continue to work as hard and diligently as we can advocating for seniors, because our goal really is to make sure seniors are food secure, not insecure,” Jones said.
Access to food is not the only thing this program provides. The program also provides the chance for social interaction, and for many seniors that is the only daily interaction they will receive.
After retirement, Denice Fahrenwald said she was not sure what to do with her spare time. She decided to volunteer delivering meals with the Twin Falls Meals On Wheels program. Eleven years later, Fahrenwald still enjoys delivering meals.
“I like the fact that you are helping out people who really have a need,” Fahrenwald said. “It’s a really important need that they get a hot meal and they get someone to come to their house to make sure they’re okay.”
Fahrenwald said they are always looking for volunteer drivers and encourages people to deliver meals at least one day of the week.