TWM Gives Back: Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County
Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County has been proudly serving our community’s most frail and vulnerable citizens since 1973. Throughout that time, they have maintained their mission to promote the dignity and independence of older adults, persons with disabilities and other homebound persons by delivering nutritious meals and providing or coordinating needed services. Today, the organization serves over 6,000 individuals and provides over 1.6 million nutritious meals each year. There is no age or income requirement to qualify for services. Home-delivered meals are available to those who are homebound for any length of time, unable to prepare a nutritious meal and have nobody able to assist them on a regular basis. With the help of over 5,200 volunteers and thousands of generous donors, they’re able to offer our neighbors in need peace of mind, providing them with the nutrition, socialization and support they need to remain in their home instead of being forced into expensive nursing homes or other care facilities.
There is a lot more behind the wheel at Meals On Wheels aside from meals though. At no cost to their clients, the organization provides professional case management, minor home repairs via their Client Assistance program and helps folks combat senior isolation and loneliness with their Friend to Friend program. They also offer medication reconciliation through their HomeMeds program which helps clients identify any medication errors or adverse drug affects from their prescriptions, vitamins, and herbal supplements with the help of the organization’s on-staff pharmacy techs. Another popular service Meals On Wheels offers is their Companion Pet Meals program that provides pet food to clients’ four-legged friends to ensure they stay healthy as well and are able to continue to give necessary companionship to their homebound owners. At the heart of the organization and every service they offer is the desire to bring safety, nutrition, companionship and reassurance to the doorsteps of Tarrant County’s elderly and disabled.
This past year, COVID-19 brought forth many new challenges for the organization as the demand for in-home support surged due to many people’s fear of going out in public, decreased support from family, friends and neighbors that began practicing self-isolation themselves or feared exposing their elderly or high-risk loved ones. With the increased demand across the county, Meals On Wheels responded promptly by creating a brand new Supplemental Nutrition Plan (SNP). SNP welcomed a new demographic, simply requiring individuals to be 60+ and not having enough food to eat or experiencing reduced nutritional support due to the global health crisis. This meal plan served nearly 500 new clients and provided 38,982 meals in 2020 to alleviate both nutritional and financial concerns. SNP continues to grow and offer a sense of togetherness to those who are at highest risk during this pandemic and need to self-isolate.
The growth doesn’t stop there though. COVID-19 pushed many public facilities to close their doors and adult activity centers were no exception unfortunately. As centers made the difficult decision to temporarily close, so ended the socialization and nutritional support many active seniors received from their on-site lunches. Again, Meals On Wheels saw an opportunity to serve and help meet the needs of our community. The Congregate Meals At Home meal plan was formed to offer an alternative to those who formerly benefitted from these on-site meals by providing weekly drive-thru pickup. Participants receive a box of five frozen meals and a 10 lb. box of fresh produce, as available. The plan is a just one of many examples of community collaboration during the pandemic. Funding for Congregate Meals At Home is provided by the Area Agency on Aging and United Way of Tarrant County along with community donations. This new service launched in October 2020 and welcomed 962 new clients and has provided over 30,000 nutritious meals.
All in all, Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County has seen an increase of over 25% in the number of people they serve in the past year and that number continues to grow. They increased meal production to include two meals per day to their Home-Delivered Meals clients, launched two new meal plans and are continuously evaluating the needs of the community to see where they might be able to better serve those in need across Tarrant County. However, in order to continue to meet the demands of our community as we all navigate our new normal, Meals On Wheels needs your help.
With a variety of services, there are also a variety of ways you can support their mission.
One of the easiest ways to support Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County is to make a donation to their Home-Delivered Meals program at mealsonwheels.org/donate. For just $35, you can provide meals to a neighbor in need for an entire week or donate $140 to provide a month’s worth of meals. No matter what amount you give, every dollar counts and ensures someone in our community receives a nutritious meal and daily safety check.
Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County is also always in need of those willing to give of their time to become a meal delivery volunteer. They recognize that your time is valuable, and it means the world to them and the clients they serve when you choose to give some of that time to ensure your homebound neighbors get the help they need to remain safely in their homes. Volunteers are asked to commit to one day per week, Monday-Friday, during the lunch hour for about one hour to deliver meals to 10 to 15 folks who are homebound, elderly or disabled. Safety measures are in place to ensure both clients and volunteers are kept safe. Social distancing is enforced and all training is done virtually. Volunteers are also required to always wear a mask and use hand sanitizer between each delivery. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer visit mealsonwheels.org/volunteer or call 817-258-6426.
Jordan Lyle currently serves as the marketing and public relations specialist for Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County. She earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. Jordan started her professional career as a reporter for CBS affiliate KIMA-TV in Washington state. She later worked as a public relations specialist for a national low-cost airline based in Las Vegas developing national media campaigns, handling large corporate sponsorships, and managing all social media accounts. She’s proud to now be back in her home state helping increase awareness of the same organization that helped her great grandmother remain healthy and at home until she was almost 101.