To the Editor:
I volunteer with Jackson County Meals on Wheels, and I also serve on the volunteer committee. I would like to address some of the concerns raised in last week’s article (“Jackson Meals on Wheels leaves money on the table,” Aug. 21 SMN, smokymountainnews-.com/news/item/11553).
The Department on Aging provides meals through both a congregate dining program and by home-delivered meals. Congregate meals provide important benefits that go far beyond the meal itself. The social and nutritional benefits of eating in community keep older adults in better health and allow them to remain more independent and active for a longer time. These congregate meals are funded through a Home & Community Care Block Grant (HCCBG), county funds, and through private donations, not by diverting funds from the Meals on Wheels budget.
Several factors come into play in adding clients for home-delivered meals. Funding does play a role, and most of the funding comes from HCCBG funding set each fiscal year. Clients must also be screened individually, including face-to-face interviews, and eligibility can change rapidly based on circumstances. These include a move to an assisted living or nursing facility, home health services, kinship care, or improved health of a client such that meal delivery is no longer needed.
These meals are delivered by volunteers. There is a limit to the number of clients who can be served on each route. Not only do we volunteers donate our time and gasoline, but the meals must be delivered in a timely manner for safety reasons. Food safety guidelines require foods to be delivered at certain temperatures. When new clients are added, there is often a need to change the delivery routes or to add a route to meet these guidelines. New routes require more volunteers.
Volunteering is easy and enjoyable. The clients and staff are wonderful. The whole process takes from one to two hours a week, depending on the route. All of us volunteers have times we need to be out of town. Don’t let that stop you from volunteering. There are people who substitute on routes, and you are not expected to find your own sub.
Funds are available. Support from the county commissioners is there. All we’re missing is some wheels for those meals. If you are able to volunteer for a route or as a substitute, call Debbie Baird at 828.631.8044.