Meals on Wheels struggles with increased demand


As older adults especially are urged to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are struggling to get basic needs such as groceries.

Vincennes University’s Generations is the area’s agency on aging that runs a Meals on Wheels program. Since the pandemic, it has seen about a 20% increase in Meals on Wheels recipients.

“In this day and age, a lot of people can still get out and about even in advanced age, so it was a bit harder to qualify for meals,” said Stacey Kahre, Generations operations director. “But since the pandemic hit back in March, that definition of homebound has become a lot looser. They shouldn’t be getting out of their home if they can’t because of the risk of the infection.”

Generations' Meals on Wheels provides affordable meals to older adults and individuals with disabilities in a handful of local counties, including about 120 in Dubois County, Kahre said.

Before 2017, the nonprofit cooked and delivered the meals out of a kitchen in Ferdinand. Now, due to budget cuts, the meals are frozen and delivered by other companies such as FedEx and UPS.

In addition to providing meals, Generations provides recipients with social workers who do care checks, provide resources for other help such as grocery delivery or lifeline buttons, and make sure the adults aren’t too lonely.

Nearly all Meals on Wheels programs across the country are experiencing financial strain, according to its website. Nearly 9 in 10 programs have reported an increased demand for meals during the pandemic.

Kahre said the local program has not received any additional government funding during the pandemic, so it’s relied on community support — grants and donations from foundations, local clubs and private donors.

“We have only been able to meet the needs of the callers that are coming in because of the community support that we received,” Kahre said. “I’m not sure people realize how important it is to give locally and support your non-for-profits in that way.”

The program used to get a significant amount of donations from the recipients themselves because they formed relationships with the people delivering their food every day, Kahre said. Now that the food is delivered less frequently and by big companies, those donations have dropped off.

Currently, there is no waiting list for the program. But Kahre said she can’t be sure it’ll always be that way.

“I think since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, that there’s this overwhelming need to take care of one of our own, so it feels like the money is there,” she said. “But I think once it’s post pandemic, I think we will really see the effects, and unfortunately older adults will probably take the brunt of that.”

Generations is likely to continue making budget cuts, but the staff wants to care for clients in every way it can, Kahre said. They don’t know how exactly they’ll do that in the future, though.

“Who knows what is coming down the pike in this crazy year that’s already established for us?” She asked. “We’ll take it in stride.”

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