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Meals on Wheels

MEALS ON WHEELS

MEALS ON WHEELS. A change in the 1965 Older Americans Act (OAA) allowed prepared meals to be delivered to qualified individuals assessed to be homebound or otherwise isolated. In 1972 the OAA, which initially addressed the needs of the elderly to promote independence and successful aging, was amended to include nutrition. Federal funds were allocated for local communities to provide hot meals in group dining situations for persons over sixty years of age and their spouses, regardless of the spouse's age.

For those senior citizens who were unable to prepare adequate meals for themselves or attend the congregate nutrition centers because of ill health or physical incapacity, the first so-called meals-on-wheels program was established in Pennsylvania. Volunteers dubbed "Platter Angels" prepared, packaged, and delivered meals to homebound elderly in the community.

As the demand for the service continued to grow, additional neighborhood meals-on-wheels programs sprung up across the country. Volunteers organized programs and delivered meals. A fee was charged to cover the cost of food and preparation. Charitable institutions such as churches and civic organizations were called upon to subsidize costs for those unable to pay.

Although limited federal funds were available to the volunteer programs, Congress recognized that a major federal effort was needed. Another change to the OAA in 1978 (Title IIIC-2, Home-delivered nutrition services) provided for the home-delivered meals for those assessed as unable to participate in the congregate meal program. Administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, the program focuses on those in greatest economic and/or social need.

By requirement, each home-delivered meal must supply at least one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances for this age group. It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of most required nutrients are supplied in practice. Guidelines developed to assist in menu planning indicate both the types and the amounts of food to be included in each meal. Some state programs have chosen to offer additional services such as offering medical nutrition supplement products. Delivery packaging materials for the meals should be safe and acceptable for both hot and cold foods, they should prevent contamination, and be reasonable in cost. Improper handling by recipients leading to food safety issues has been raised as a concern. Evaluation studies of program effectiveness affirm that the nutrient-dense meals improve the status of the homebound.

Thirty percent of the cost of the home-delivered meals is met through OAA funds. Public and private partnerships leverage additional resources. Every $1 in federal funds leverages an additional $3.35 in the home delivered meals program. The demand for homebound meals has dramatically increased in concert with the growing number of frail and homebound elderly who want to remain independent. Based on the most recent figures, about 135 million home-delivered meals are served annually. From the program's inception more applicants were attracted than could be accommodated, and waiting lists in many areas are not uncommon.

A separate but similar national organization that complements the federally supported home-delivered meal service is the Meals-on-Wheels America (MOWA) program. Their additional home-delivered meal service is seamlessly integrated into existing meals on wheels programs. Meals-on-Wheels America helps local communities raise funds and expand their nutrition programs for homebound elderly.

With the elderly population expected to double by 2030, senior feeding programs such as meals on wheels will continue to provide much-needed ongoing services.

See also Government Agencies; Government Agencies, U.S.; Poverty; WIC (Women, Infants, and Children's) Program .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Meals on Wheels Association of America. Available at http://www.mowaa.org/mowaa.html.

Owen, Anita L., Patricia L. Splett, and George M. Owen. Nutrition in the Community: The Art and Science of Delivering Services, 4th ed. Boston, Mass.: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

Wellman, Nancy S., Lester Y. Rosenzweig, and Jean L. Lloyd. "Thirty Years of the Older Americans Nutrition Program." Journal of The American Dietetic Association 102 (2002): 348-350.

Connie E. Vickery

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Meals on Wheels

Meals On Wheels

Meals On Wheels is a federal food assistance program aimed at improving the diets and nutritional status of homebound older adults. It is funded under Title III-C of the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965. The program provides one hot meal at noon five days a week. Each meal must supply approximately one-third of the recommended nutrient intakes. The meal pattern includes three ounces of meat or a meat alternate, two one-half cup portions of fruits and vegetables, one serving of bread, one teaspoon of butter or margarine, eight ounces of milk or a calcium equivalent, and one serving of dessert.

see also Aging and Nutrition; Nutrition Programs in the Community.

Beth Fontenot

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