Meals On Wheels means more than just meals

Two million — can we fathom that number, whether it’s dollars, miles or meals? Probably not. However MAC Inc., the Area Agency on Aging, has done the unfathomable in its Meals On Wheels program — delivering nearly 2,000,000 meals in the four counties of Maryland’s Lower Shore since 1976.

Meals On Wheels is a national program, administered locally by MAC Inc., to deliver nutritious meals to residents 60 and above who are homebound, most with some physical disability or limitations. Participants can be referred to the program by hospital discharge planners, social services, families or churches. MAC verifies the need, and often finds the senior requires other services as well.

Locally, Meals On Wheels began 43 years ago with 4,000 annual deliveries. This year, with about 885 participants over a 12-month period, the number of deliveries is expected to exceed 82,000.

According to Karla Beardsley, Program Dietitian, meals provide at least one third of the recommended daily nutritional needs.

Meals are delivered mid-day, from one to four days a week. Frozen and “shelf stable” meals help fill in the gaps when there are no regular meal deliveries. Meals are also delivered in advance of a predicted hurricane, snowstorm, or any other weather event.

Pattie A. Tingle, Executive Director of MAC Inc., says that good nutrition is an important key to keeping seniors out of hospitals and nursing facilities, and living in their own homes.

“However, MOW often means more sustenance than food to the participant,” Tingle explains. “The delivery person might be able to provide important feedback to MAC on the declining health of the person, as well as deteriorating conditions in the home.”

The meal deliveries also serve as a safety check for those frail seniors living alone, and a friendly face to help break the isolation for home-bound seniors.

Bertie Jones, 79, of Salisbury, lives alone and is on oxygen. “I thank God for Meals On Wheels,” he says. “This program gives me something to look forward to. Some days, the driver is the only person I see all day long. He always has a smile and words of encouragement for me.”

AnnaMae Perdue Vincent, 94, of Salisbury, is a widow. She has impaired vision and cannot drive. “As a retired nurse and someone interested in good nutrition, I appreciate the variety of meals,” she says. “And they are ready to eat. All I have to do is put the tray in the microwave and warm it up. Not having to cook saves me so much time and energy.”

A recent reduction in funding from the Maryland Department on Aging for Senior Nutrition Services, however, will present a challenge to this critically important service of providing nutritious meals to seniors who need them.

MAC is anticipating a reduction in state funding of more than $113,000 — effective July 1. This reduction is the result of a reallocation of funding across the State of Maryland,

This reduction in funds will result in a loss of more than 15,000 meals for frail elderly on the Lower Eastern Shore. An estimated 120 to 150 seniors will initially be impacted, and waiting lists for nutrition services will be created or extended.

MAC is working on finding solutions to close this unexpected funding gap, and to ensure that MAC can continue the critically important service of providing meals to homebound seniors.

For more information on MAC’s home-delivered meals, or if you’d like to make a donation to help MAC continue to provide food to Shore seniors who need it, please call 410-742-0505 or visit macinc.org.

MAC is located at 909 Progress Circle, Salisbury MD 21804.

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