From The Plate: October 2022

October 28, 2022

Smiling Meals on Wheels Volunteers

As you know, we try to support our client’s nutritional needs and enhance their food security with “ancillary” programs. We believe they are vital to our client’s ability to stay in their homes and to do so with much less worry. One program we offer, through Second Harvest Food Bank, is the Senior Food Box. This is part of the USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food program. The USDA purchases the food, then makes it available to the Department of Agriculture who, in turn, gets it to food banks. It is designed to improve the health of low-income seniors by supplementing their diets with items such as non-fat dry milk, juice, oats, rice, pasta, cereal, beans, peanut butter, and canned meat, fruits, and vegetables. Boxes are packed monthly by Second Harvest volunteers. This program wouldn’t exist without many volunteers!

Our Client Services department was trying to get this program off the ground in the summer of 2019 and was having a tough time. In part, it was because the boxes were heavy, weighing between 25-30 lbs. This meant that we couldn’t just drop them on a regular meal delivery route. There are also some compliance issues, such as client screening and eligibility, which required staff attention. In short, it was a little high maintenance for us to manage. 52 clients received these boxes this month. Since starting the program, we have delivered 636 boxes to 93 clients. That’s 15,900 lbs. of shelf-stable food delivered by you!

Cut to the present day where we have our fabulous Melissa Mayer running the program. Melissa makes sure that the required paperwork is obtained, works with Second Harvest for the monthly delivery of the boxes to Sherman St., creates the routes for delivery, and takes referrals of clients who want to participate from our case managers. We have gone from delivering 5 or 6 boxes a month to close to 60. Our case managers now discuss this program at every new client intake, which is what has really helped us increase participation.

This program is not incredibly innovative or groundbreaking. It is simply the MOWGLV staff finding ways to use our incredible infrastructure (you!) to reach our clients in more supportive ways. These boxes help our clients to spread out their food dollars and support their limited budgets while providing some shelf-stable foods for when we don’t deliver. The added bonus—and this is a big one—is that they have another touch point with our volunteers.

Delivering the Senior Food Boxes is much like delivering daily meals, though the routes are a little shorter. These routes are scheduled to go out once a month in the afternoon. Melissa checks in with the clients to remind them that their box will be delivered on a certain day and time, and then the volunteer is off to the races.

Audrey and I (you knew this was coming, right??) delivered the boxes on the southside Easton route this week. We were ushered inside an apartment building by one helpful resident and delivered to a man who had to be one of the happiest guys I’ve run into in a long time. I could see a collection of straw fedoras (about 8!) stacked in his apartment and complimented his collection. He said it was time to switch them out for his winter hat collection since the weather was turning. I’ll have to go back next month to see what the winter collection is like. As we left, he shouted to us down the hall and said that if we ever had a problem in the building, or car trouble, we should call Mr. Franklin.” (pseudonym).

The other deliveries were uneventful… as we all want them to be… but we did have fun outside a very festive Halloween house.