August 17, 2017. Our program featured Tom Harper who is the Development Director for Meals on Wheels of Northampton County. There are approximately 10 million senior citizens in the United States who face a threat of hunger. This number is expected to increase substantially in coming years. Pennsylvania is already the 4th “oldest” state. Many cannot afford to live in senior housing where food is available. Meals on Wheels is one way people can stay in their own homes at a cost of under $5,000/year.
The Northampton County Meals on Wheels serves 712 clients every day. Their kitchen also produces meals for Meals on Wheels in Lehigh and Monroe Counties and for many senior centers and adult and child daycare centers. They employ two full time case managers who meet with clients and design specifically tailored nutritious meal plans. The cost to the clients is based on their ability to pay. No one is turned away. Clients receive two meals per day: one hot and one cold. Non-traditional clients can order meals from the Chef’s Pack menus. These can be picked up or delivered and are great for people who simply don’t want to cook for themselves.
Meals can be medically tailored for people with diabetes or renal problems. The food can be chopped, made soft, or pureed if necessary. Meals can be low fat or heart-healthy based on the client’s needs. The kitchen uses local produce when possible and they buy fresh from eight local farms. They noticed that people with pets were sharing their meals with the pets so they created the Ani-Meals pet food program. The kitchen staff includes 30 full-time employees who produce 2,200 meals daily. They produced 458,777 meals in 2014 and the projection for the upcoming year has increased to over 577,000. Over 1,500 volunteers are needed to deliver the food for the year. The volunteers all must pass background checks and receive emergency response training. The interaction of the volunteers and the clients is a critical part of the process. This is often the only interaction the clients will have all day.