Meals on Wheels delivers food, comfort and company

Meals on WheelsFor Bernie and Terry Richardson of Kettle Falls, Meals On Wheels is nothing short of a blessing.

“I’m not able to do the things I used to do,” says Terry, who is disabled along with her husband. The couple looks forward to the hot and tasty meals they get three times a week. “Sometimes I don’t have much of an appetite, but Bernie does, and the dinners are pretty good.”

Meals on Wheels, a federal food assistance program provided locally by Rural Resources Community Action, can mean the difference between health and hunger for more than 120 vulnerable, home-bound seniors in the Tri- County area.

In 2009, Rural Resources Tri-County Senior Nutrition Program provided nearly 11,000 hot, frozen and liquid meals to elders in need, and that number is expected to grow as more seniors on fixed incomes require support to meet rising living expenses.

About 64 percent of the funding for Meals on Wheels comes from government sources, but the rest must be made up in community donations, fund raising and special projects.

“Our goal is to provide home-delivered meals to every eligible person in the Tri-County area, but we can’t do that without the community’s support,” says Anita Sailor, senior nutrition program manager with Rural Resources.

To qualify for the services, recipients must be 60 or older or married to someone 60 or older and determined by staff to be “nutritionally at-risk”, meaning they are primarily homebound with a limited support system. The food and supplements are free, but recipients are asked to make suggested donations.

Older adults who are under- or malnourished are more likely to have limited daily activities and poor health, according to a landmark study sponsored by the Meals On Wheels Association of America Foundation. The effects of “food insecurity” can be compared to being 14 years older, so a 64-year-old suffering hunger is likely to have the activity limitations of a 78-year-old, the study found.

Meals on Wheels delivers more than just food, says Anita. “Homebound seniors are prone to isolation and depression. For many, the friendly visit from a Meals On Wheels volunteer might be their only contact during the day.”Lisa Brozik, owner of the Little Gallea Restaurant, supplies the meals that go out to seniors in Kettle Falls and Colville. She’s paid by Rural Resources, but that’s not her only reward for participating in the program. She likes to think that her meals boost spirits and bring peace of mind, for recipients and their families.

“Most of the people who get Meals On Wheels aren’t able to cook for themselves,” she says. “They’ve had so many things taken away from them. This program gives them something back and brings them a little happiness.”

Terry Richardson couldn’t agree more. “When you’re in need, you’re just so thankful there’s something like this out there.”