Meals on Wheels has a long and interesting history that is tied to World War II. After extensive bombing damage in England, The Women's Volunteer Service for Civil Defense took meals to civilians and to soldiers in canteens to fill the gap for those that no longer had the means to cook for themselves. The war ended but the meals didn’t. A group of people in Philadelphia ran an experimental meal delivery service for seven people in 1954. This trial was wildly successful, leading to a social worker named Margaret Toy applying for a grant to extend the service across the city. From there it took off, extending through America and Canada.
Times have changed, but the fundamentals of Meals on Wheels have not. While it is a program associated with seniors, it remains available to those that meet the needs-based criteria. A low fee subsidizes the cost of the meal, and the dignity of the meal recipients is prioritized throughout.
Sandy Rainkie, Secretary of the Board for Airdrie Meals on Wheels, explains further.
“Airdrie Meals on Wheels is for anyone who has difficulty or is unable to prepare and shop for meals for themselves. While the elderly do play a part, we also assist people that need help because they are ill or are recovering from surgery. With COVID-19, we are also available to those suffering from mental illness (depression, anxiety, etc.) and simply cannot bear to prepare meals for themselves."
The meals provided are prepared in a certified kitchen and delivered by driver volunteers. Full meals and/or lunches can be provided. Dietary restrictions can be accommodated. The costs of the meals are donated or provided by the recipient, and are based on each individuals tax assessment (line 236) from the previous year.
“In Airdrie, the need fluctuates,” says Rainkie. “We have seen around 50 clients at any given time, but our client base has gone down due to all the other COVID supports.” She points out, “We are here for you. We know there is lots of support for you right now, but give us a shout if you need and we can help out.”
Not only does Airdrie Meals on Wheels provide support for people in need of a hot and healthy meal, it provides a wonderful opportunity for volunteers and donors too.
“Drivers undergo a police check,” says Rainkie, “and upon clearance can choose to drive once a week or once every couple of weeks. Volunteers are also needed to serve as board members and committee members.”
Donations are always welcome and go directly to the cost of the meals. Donations are easy to make on the Airdrie Meals on Wheels website. The website link is also accessible through their Facebook page.
During COVID-19, volunteers can only drop off the food in a contactless manner – but the volunteers were previously allowed to go inside, chat for a few minutes, and do a wellness check. Even before the pandemic, for isolated individuals, sometimes the only human contact they got that day is with the Meals on Wheels volunteer.
“It’s hard on some of the volunteers,” Rainkie admits. “Before they could socialize and could see the effects of that. During the wellness checks we could see if the person needed additional help, and we could contact their family.” They look forward to being able to interact more directly with clients again once it is safe to do so.
Meals on Wheels is a long-running program that has benefited thousands since its inception. To learn more, get support, or donate to Airdrie’s program, visit https://www.airdriemealsonwheels.ca/ today.