Meals on Wheels and More goes far beyond delivering more than 60,000 meals a year to homebound seniors in Whatcom and San Juan counties.
Staff members and volunteers also offer connection and companionship to those they feed. As a result of the service, more than 90 percent of the people who receive the meals, many of them getting by on low incomes, say the program helps them afford to stay in their homes.
“It’s not just about the meals,” says director Julie Meyers.
The “More” in the organization’s name refers to “senior community meals” provided at nine senior centers and residences in the two counties. That lunchtime assistance also makes it easier for nearly 60 percent of participants to remain at home.
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Last year, people in Whatcom and San Juan counties received nearly 100,000 hot lunches through the program. The community meals are free to anyone over 60, with donations of $5 a meal accepted. Staff have been working to add more local produce and more gluten-free options to the meals.
“The food is really good, not institutionalized,” says Meyers, who is a nutritionist.
The hot meals are one option for Meals on Wheels dining. There are also 30 choices of frozen meals for deliveries to homebound seniors. Each home visit provides the elderly resident with seven frozen meals, plus whole grain bread and milk.
As with the community meals, the Meals on Wheels service is free, but recipients need to qualify for it. They must be over 60, have trouble leaving home on their own, and have difficulty accessing or preparing food. Meyers encourages anyone who might be eligible to contact the organization to apply.
“People think it’s going to be a big hassle, but it’s not,” she says.
Initially, there is a 15-minute phone consultation, followed by a visit to the home. Even if home meals cannot be delivered to the person, the registered dietitian making the evaluation can provide the person referrals to other agencies.
Meals and Wheels and More operates under the Whatcom County Council on Aging. Less than half of its funding comes from the federal government; other sources include United Way, local governments, individual contributions and grants. This year, the program received a $54,000 donation, combined, from Dewey Griffin Subaru and Subaru of America.
So far, the funding has enabled the organization to serve everyone who is eligible without the need of a waiting list. Meyers expects the need for meals will continue to grow.
“Our goal is to keep people healthy and in their homes,” she says. “We need to give our seniors the care they gave us.”
Margi Fox is a Bellingham writer.
Meals on Wheels and More
Address: Bellingham Senior Activity Center, 315 Halleck St.
Phone: 360-733-4030, ext. 1030.