Feeding The Homebound Elderly During Covid-19

Tuesday, April 21st 2020

While the stay-at-home order isn’t a problem for our community’s homebound elderly, making sure this vulnerable group has nutritious meals is a big challenge. Meals on Wheels Central Texas delivers close to 3,000 hot lunches every day. Since volunteers can no longer have direct contact with clients, the entire protocol has changed to ensure meal delivery. Judy Maggio talks with CEO Adam Hauser and volunteer Jessica Weston about what it now takes to get healthy food to our neighbors in need.

Judy Maggio: So Adam I'm going to start with you. The hohomeboundund elderly is a very vulnerable population right now. Tell us about the new protocol, the new plans, you've had to put in place to protect them?

Adam Hauser: This is a very unusual situation for our agency to deal with because I think, as most of the audience knows, the core of our normal delivery model is this physical interaction between the volunteer and the client. And we're now in this bizarre world where we're all physically separated from each other. So we've pivoted to doing less frequent deliveries but still getting the seniors enough nutrition that they need to protect themselves. And so we changed our protocol to delivering, instead of on a daily basis, to every other week. And instead of a hot meal, a daily, hot meal, we're giving boxes of shelf stable meals that provide enough food to get the client from one delivery day to the next.

And then we've asked our volunteers to be sensitive to and comply with the new social distancing requirements that we have in place, again, to protect the health and safety of not only the client, but of also them because we don't want them unnecessarily exposed to the virus as well. So instead of the close and normal sort of human interaction that you have when you deliver a meal, the volunteers are now placing the meals at the front door of the client, knocking on the door, announcing, of course, that they're with Meals on Wheels Central Texas, and then stepping back the required at least 6 feet to make sure the client answers the door, is able to get the meal, says a hello and at least puts some eyes on the seniors that we're serving and then moves on to the next home.

JM: Jessica, I know you were volunteering with Meals on Wheels Central Texas before the pandemic. I'm wondering how being able to give back during this unsettling time in this way has helped you endure these troubled times.

Jessica Weston: It's been reassuring, and it actually helps me to know that the clients are okay, and just that I get to do my part and help people that are unable to do things that we take for granted. Like just go to the grocery store or be able to do anything. It just gives me a little peace in my heart that they're OK, everyone's being taken care of and looked out for. I honestly think I get just as much out of it as the clients do. It's just reassuring that there's someone, everyone just needs food, everyone needs love and companionship and some kind of compassion and kindness. And it goes both ways. You give it to the clients and you get it back tenfold and it's just an amazing feeling to know that in this troubling time there's the positive out there.

JM: Adam, how can people watching this help you all?

AH: We're getting ready to go into Volunteer Appreciation next week and certainly want all of our volunteers out there that are listening to know how much we appreciate them and what they're doing for us. And that's a way, obviously, they can continue to help our agency is to continue to show up and volunteer for all the programs that we have that involve or are critical to have a volunteer. The other way you can help is to make financial donations to our agency, which is easy to do by going to our website. We have had to incur additional costs for food because the shelf stable meals are more expensive than what we typically serve during our normal operational times. And so financial donations are extremely helpful to us right now.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Want to know how you can help Meals on Wheels? Visit our Help The Helpers page.

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