WACO, Texas – The senior population in America is expected to double by 2060, but already 9 million seniors nationwide face the threat of hunger, and millions more live alone in isolation.
This is where Meals on Wheels comes in.
The non-profit is working to end elderly hunger one senior at a time. But, what really goes on behind the scenes?
The day of some employees that work in the kitchen begins even before the sun rises. This is when the kitchen crew is hard at work, setting into motion what will become the big meal delivery of the day.
Once the food is cooked, the assembly line begins. They put together 1,380 meals to be distributed across 45 locations in Central Texas.
“Once we get on the line is when everybody is, like, upbeat and talking and everyone is focused on getting the food out,” says Melony Rodriguez, Food Service Director at Meals on Wheels Waco.
After two hours of assembly and packing, it’s loading time. Multiple coolers get delivered anywhere from Temple to Killeen, and a separate batch stays in Waco.
“We make sure that home bound seniors that don’t have easy access to food, get a hot meal five days a week,” says Debbie King, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels Waco.
Those free hot meals are delivered by volunteers.
“Wanted to justify my existence, I guess. I had known about Meals on Wheels’ good work, and my father had delivered for them for years before he died, and I thought it was important to give my time for that, so I did,” says Elinor Mazé, Volunteer at Meals on Wheels Waco.
Mazé has been volunteering her time, energy and money for three years, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s so clear that it’s more than just delivering meals. We are the safety net in a way. Some of these people, we may be the only people they see.”Elinor Mazé
Mazé delivers meals to eight seniors in Waco on a daily basis.
“It keeps me out of the cold, from going to bus stops, catching the bus and trying to go to a grocery store and then packing food away,” says Ethel Hardin, Meals on Wheels Waco recipient.
“It means a lot to me because they bring my food and stuff and different things for me, help me out a lot. I appreciate the things that they do,” says Freddy Farmer, Meals on Wheels Waco recipient.
Cornelia Davis is 92-years-old, she calls the non-profit wonderful.
“I feel good, get something to eat and don’t have to cook it. (laughs) Don’t have to go to the store to try and find something to buy to cook,” says Davis, Meals on Wheels Waco recipient.
They are just a few of the thousands of seniors receiving this service in Central Texas, and the number is growing.
“We get calls every week. We get three to five calls and they want to get on meals, so we have to put them on our wait list so that we can wait until we have a space for them,” King says.
The non-profit is more than just a meal. They have other programs that help seniors like the pet food program, transportation, groceries-to-go and wellness calls.
“Occasionally we’ve had to work with the local police departments in the communities and ask them to actually do whats called a wellness check, go knock on the door and they are able to access a house if someone has a problem, and that doesn’t happen often but every now and then it does,” King says.
Mazé says on her first day on the job, she experienced a scary situation.
“I heard a crash through the door. Knocked and knocked, and I heard a little sound as this poor person made it to the door and just managed to push it open. Very elderly lady was on the floor bleeding from the head. She had fallen,” Mazé says.
This experience helped solidify her desire to help others through Meals on Wheels. The program provides not only nourishment, but that extra sense of security to one’s well being.
“I think it makes them feel connected and cared for, you know, that they aren’t abandoned,” Mazé says.
Meals on Wheels Waco is always accepting volunteers and donations to help them continue the program. You can find more information HERE.