September 13, 2023
Seniors learn how to prevent falls while playing bingo
By Steve Oldfield / Spectrum
It can happen in an instant and change the lives of seniors and their families forever: a fall.
September is Fall Prevention Month, but a year-round program by the Council on Aging is helping seniors to learn how to prevent them, while playing a popular game at the same time. They call the program at Cincinnati’s Over The Rhine Senior Center “Bingocize,” games of bingo that are interrupted by quick breaks to exercise and learn tips on preventing falls.
What You Need To Know
The Council on Aging is presenting "Bingocize" at the Over The Rhine Senior Center
The program combines bingo with exercise and fall prevention tips
It's a 10-week program meeting twice a week.
The Council on Aging also can perform fall hazard assessments in people's homes
“They have fun while they’re doing it,” said trainer Christine Harris, who calls out the bingo numbers and also leads the exercise and fall prevention discussions. “It’s a really great program.”
“We love bingo,” said Edressa Johnson, who’s been coming to the center for eight years. “What got me was, I’ve never thought of playing bingo and exercising. It’s really helpful.”
For Johnson, who is retired, coming to the center is a welcome variation to her routine at home.
“I come down here to the senior center because it’s like home away from home,” Johnson said. “To me, it’s like one big family and get out of the house to keep active.”
Being able to stay in your home is a big goal of the fall prevention program. Harris offers three major tips for seniors to stay strong and avoid falls.
“I think number one would definitely be hydration. You can get weak if you don’t have enough fluids,” Harris said. “Second, make sure that you know the side effects of your medications and always watch your rugs - trips and falls those are just really big, ones I think.”
“In the United States, every second of every day, an older adult falls, making falls the leading cause of injury and injury-related deaths among older adults,” said the Council on Aging’s Paula Smith. “If we can prevent falls in the first place, then we know we can help people remain independent much longer in their homes and communities.”
Smith said the Council on Aging is teaming up with Meals on Wheels to offer the 10-week program at the center.
“Our tagline is much more than a meal and you’re looking at it here,” said Sarah Celena, who works with Meals on Wheels.
“I love it,” Johnson said.
While Meals on Wheels is known for delivering meals to seniors’ homes, Smith said the Council on Aging will also bring their fall assessment program to those who can’t get out to places like the senior center.
“We’re happy to help seniors who need us to come to them,” Johnson said.
For more information, go to the Council on Aging's website.
August 24, 2023
'Lines outside of our door': The need for food assistance is rising in the region
Felicia Jordan / WCPO
Jeffrey Davis has already lost weight in the past two years, but he said without meals delivered to him weekly he's sure he'd be down even more.
"This shirt used to fit me tight, so I'm losing a lot of weight," said Davis. "It is helping quite a bit."
Two years ago, his wife was diagnosed with dementia at just 60 years old and Davis had to take her to live in a facility. Since then, he's had to rely on Meals on Wheels.
"I miss my wife's cooking, you know," said Davis. "She was the one in the kitchen and now I've got to do this here."
As the cost of food has risen starkly since the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis said he most heavily relies on Meals on Wheels to bring him fresh vegetables.
Sarah Celenza, chief giving officer for Meals on Wheels, said the demand from seniors served by the Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky branch has gone up this year. The number of meals served by Meals on Wheels has risen nearly 20% since February, Celenza said.
At Freestore Foodbank, the largest food pantry and emergency food provider in the region, the demand has also risen sharply.
The end of COVID-era SNAP benefits
Kam McKenzie, SNAP outreach manager for the food bank, said the Liberty Street pantry is seeing 940 more families per month since the end of February, when COVID-era SNAP benefits were halted.
"So now we're averaging maybe a little over 300 families a day coming into our Liberty Street pantry to shop for groceries," said McKenzie.
Based on the amount of food given out by Freestore, she estimated the demand on the pantry is up 27% compared to June of 2022.
Households in Ohio received emergency allotments in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments from March 2020 through the end of February 2023, through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Pre-pandemic, a household of three people would have received $180 a month in SNAP aid — but with the emergency allotment in place, that same family was receiving $740 per month for the last three years.
In Hamilton County, commissioners said the change affected more than 52,000 families.
Many of those families have turned to Freestore Foodbank to bridge the gap.
"We're starting to see lines outside of our door before we open in the mornings," said McKenzie. "We haven't seen that for awhile outside of holiday distributions."
And among those in line are new faces, McKenzie said.
"So, at our pantry you can come twice a month to shop and for the most part it had been the same families kind of circulating in and out, but what we've seen the last few months is just people who have never utilized our services are coming in to shop at our Liberty Street market," McKenzie said.
Some of those new faces are also seniors who hadn't relied on Freestore in the past, she said. Seniors on a fixed income were receiving $281 per month under the COVID-era SNAP benefits, but now those payments are back down to $23 per month.
"If you look at the price of food, inflation, on top of the reduction of SNAP benefits, that's one of the other reasons why maybe they weren't utilizing our pantries even before COVID, because of the price of food," said McKenzie. "But now we all have felt and seen what that food cost increase has done and so that is also driving them into our pantries."
Freestore Foodbank isn't alone.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, told the Ohio Capital Journal in April that the end of COVID-era enhancements to SNAP has driven seniors to rely on food pantries across the state.
“They’re the canaries in the hunger coal mine,” she told the Ohio Capital Journal. “When they join the food line, they’re not leaving until they go into the nursing home or they pass away.”
The skyrocketing cost of food
As more Meals on Wheels deliveries are driven to doorsteps of seniors in the region, Celenza said she can't be certain the SNAP benefit change has affected their clients, because many Meals on Wheels recipients don't use the service.
But they have felt the rising cost of food.
"There's a myth that seniors only get a very small amount of SNAP benefits and it's not really worth it to most seniors, but that's not true," said Celenza. "A lot of seniors actually qualify for a fair amount of support. And there are also programs like Produce Perks, which actually double their benefit if they use the dollars on fresh produce at participating groceries, which can stretch that dollar so much further."
Davis said he hadn't relied on SNAP before turning to Meals on Wheels, and neither had Barbara Coffelt, who began having meals delivered to her after she was in a traumatic car crash.
"They ran into me, I was driving," said Coffelt, who was in a neck brace. "So I couldn't get out, you know, to get anything."
Coffelt's neck was broken in the crash, she said, and her recovery has been a slow process. She was approved for temporary meal delivery that she said was set to expire six months after she enrolled in May, but added she greatly needs the deliveries to continue.
The seven meals she gets delivered to her home each week — one meal per day — and the extra staples like vegetables, milk and bread, have been keeping her going, she said.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's consumer price index for July, the cost of food at home has increased 3.6% over July 2022.
During the interview with Coffelt, Celenza provided her with contact information for the people she needed to speak with to renew her meal deliveries.
"Our drivers check in with their people and they know if something's off or something's not right, and they're able to help that person call a loved one or they're able to check back with that person's case manager and get them the help they need," said Celenza. "Or like the situation today where Miss Barbara was worried ... we were able to have that conversation with her and make sure that she's advocating for herself to say 'no, I'm still in a situation where because of my injury, I'm not driving and I still need this help.'"
In direct response to the end of COVID-era SNAP benefits, Hamilton County commissioners also immediately acted. In January, before the additional benefits ended, commissioners voted to redirect funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to the Freestore Foodbank in anticipation.
"It is helping — of course, anything extra will help," said McKenzie. "What we've done is we were able to amp up our volunteers as well, because they actually help us to run our markets."
For people in the Greater Cincinnati region relying on food pantries or other organizations like Meals on Wheels, there are avenues that can help ease the burden.
Both Meals on Wheels and Freestore Foodbank have experts available to help enroll seniors and anyone else who may qualify in the SNAP program.
"Our social work team can work with seniors and help them get enrolled," said Celenza. "Also, our partners at the Council on Aging in the Northern Kentucky Area Development District can help get seniors enrolled."
For families already using SNAP who still struggle to make ends meet, there are other services available.
Hamilton County's rent and utility payment aid program returned in November 2022 and is still accepting applications. As part of this program, the county will pay for up to 15 months of rent — 12 past-due payments and three future payments — and utilities for eligible renters who have experienced a financial impact as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hamilton County residents can apply to the program online.
There is also a mortgage and utility assistance program funded by the State of Ohio for residents who own their homes and still need help. That program, called Save the Dream, helps to pay delinquent mortgage payments and/or future mortgage payments for up to six months.
Here's a list of available food assistance resources in the Greater Cincinnati region, several of which offer some forms of immediate help:
The Freestore Foodbank, in partnership with several different localized food pantries and food assistance programs, has several upcoming food distribution events listed on their website.
August 14, 2023
Bust a Crust! fundraiser returns with new twist to familiar recipe
Biggest fundraiser for Meals on Wheels begins Oct. 14
CINCINNATI (August 14, 2023) -- It's (almost) pie time - Bust a Crust! is back, but this time, it's baking up something new! The biggest annual fundraiser for Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY returns for its fourth year, with pies on sale beginning October 14. The popular pie sale is also one of the largest fundraisers in the nation raising money to feed seniors.
New this year, pies will be available the entire month of November at select local restaurants and bakeries, providing even more ways to support local seniors.
From October 14 through November 30, 2023, pie lovers can buy whole pies or specialty desserts, or individual slices, directly from "Pie Masters" to support the fundraiser. These partner restaurants and bakeries will then donate a portion of sales to Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, allowing consumers to support a local business and local seniors at the same time. Any way you slice it, it's a great deal.
"We heard from our donors last year - they wanted more ways to buy pies and support our seniors," said Sarah Celenza, Chief Giving Officer of Meals on Wheels. "This year, we're proud to partner with some of the best restaurants and bakeries in the area to provide pies throughout the month of November. This way, consumers can buy pies where they want - and when they want, while helping thousands of local seniors get the food and services they need to stay in their homes."
Bulk pie sales are welcome at bustacrust.org. Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY is also seeking corporate sponsors and Pie Masters to support Bust A Crust!.
In 2022, Bust a Crust! sold more than 6,000 pies, providing more than 10,000 seniors in the region with meals and more. Bust a Crust! is more than a fundraiser, fostering community spirit and supporting the mission of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY.
Click here for video of last year's pie pickup..
Learning more is as easy as - well, pie. Go to BustACrust.org for details on bulk sales, corporate sponsorships and more.
July 7, 2023
Summer Crisis Program Starts July 1
The Ohio Department of Development and Meals on Wheels of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky will help income-eligible Ohioans stay cool during the hot summer months. The Home Energy Assistance Summer Crisis Program provides eligible Ohioans assistance paying an electric bill or assistance paying for central air conditioning repairs. The program runs from July 1-Sept. 30, 2023.
To apply for the program, clients are required to schedule an appointment with Hamilton County Community Action Agency. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 513.685.4478, Option 3 (specific for Seniors.)
May 24 2023
Spectrum: Digital program aims to help seniors stay connected
May 5, 2023
"A New Day" features Zaire Sims
February 7, 2023
Meals on Wheels gets help from a local organization to meet dietary needs of seniors
By Chelsea Sick / WKRC
Meals on Wheels and the nonprofit, La Soupe are teaming up to feed seniors with special dietary needs.
La Soupe takes food that would otherwise be thrown away and turns it into balanced meals. Meals on Wheels will deliver the food to seniors who have health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic conditions.
La Soupe Dietician and Director of Food and Medicine Hannah Griswold says with the rise in the cost of food and inflation, it's more important than ever they make sure these seniors are getting the nutrition they need.
"We're really trying to pack in those balanced nutrients here with protein, carbs and fat to help lower that risk of chronic conditions," said Griswold.
One interesting thing about La Soupe, is they do not know what food and ingredients they're going to get until it is all delivered.
"Each week we really work closely together to see what ingredients we have that get rescued and what meals we can make from it so it's a big collaboration between the two of us," Griswold said.
Meals on Wheels CEO Jennifer Steele says this is the first time to their knowledge that a food rescue organization and a local Meals on Wheels organization have partnered up.
"We produce 4,000 meals a day, we're delivering all across two states, so this is a great way for us to partner up to help the environment and also to help seniors in need," Steele said.
Steele says many of the seniors they serve have multiple chronic health conditions.
"It's very expensive of course to treat, but it's also expensive to get the food that they need especially in this time of inflation, so this is just another way for us to get really nutritious, healthy, fresh options to people to make sure that they're able to manage those conditions," Steele said.
The meals are just one way Meals on Wheels helps area seniors. You can read more about what they offer, and how to see if you qualify, here.
January 26, 2023
Tri-State non-profits team up to help provide food to those in need
By Ashley Smith / WXIX Fox19
Between the pandemic and inflation, more people are going hungry in the Tri-State. Some people are having to choose between food or medicine. That’s where two non-profits step in to help provide not only tasty food but healthy food to those in need.
Inside La Soupe, hundreds of meals are created from scratch each week to distribute to various organizations feeding people in the Cincinnati region.
Just announced Thursday, they are also making meals for Meals on Wheels to help feed seniors in the Tri-State.
“Their [La Soupe] mission is at the heart of what we do as well,” says Meals on Wheels Chief Production Officer Michael Beck, “One health model, we want to not only feed our seniors but also take care of our farms and the food supply chain along the way.”
This will give seniors another option for their meals and also provides healthy food for seniors that have dietary restrictions.
“Those who face food insecurity tend to have limited access to healthy foods,” explains Food is Medicine Director Hannah Griswold, “And with consuming foods that aren’t as nutritious, that’s going to lead to increased rates of chronic illnesses and in turn higher medical costs.”
La Soupe was created almost 10 years ago.
They use food that has been overstocked or overlooked at grocery stores and turn that into healthy and nutritious meals.
The Founder says it makes perfect sense to partner with Meals on Wheels.
“Instead of going out and being the non-profit that’s replicating and duplicating services that already exist, that doesn’t make sense to me,” says La Soupe Founder Suzanne DeYoung, “What they do they do really well, what we do is just prepare the food. So why recreate the wheel? Let them do what they do and we do what we do.”
Right now, about 200 meals a week are being made at La Soupe to be served to Meals on Wheels clients.
Both organizations expect that number to increase as they continue to serve those in need in the Tri-State.
December 15, 2022
Meals on Wheels Merges with 55 North
Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY and 55 North announced today a merger to improve services for more than 11,000 area seniors.
“Our community and country faces a crisis in aging, which was worsened by the pandemic and recent inflation,” said Jennifer Steele, President & CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “Seniors who receive services from each agency will benefit from a broader array of services offered by the combination of the two, and from the elegance and simplicity of a coordinated approach. The community will benefit from reduced duplication of services. Together we will make a stronger impact.”
Founded in 1973, 55 North, formerly known as Hyde Park Center for Older Adults, annually serves more than 1,000 east-side based seniors with meals, transportation to medical appointments, health and wellness activities and supportive services related to their well-being. Meals on Wheels serves more than 10,000 seniors in the Cincinnati region annually.
This is the second merger, in as many years, by Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, the largest provider of home-delivered meals in the region and one of the largest Meals on Wheels in the United States. Jennifer Steele will remain CEO of Meals on Wheels and lead the combined organization, with Shelley Goering, CEO of 55 North joining their senior leadership team.
“This merger will enable our organizations to advocate for the needs of older adults with a unified voice,” said Dan Driehaus, Chair of the Meals on Wheels board. Driehaus, formerly Chair of the CASS Board, also helped to lead that merger in 2021.
“Our merger with Meals on Wheels will encourage growth of services and funding by strengthening our collective ability to connect seniors in a changing world,” said Tony Fenno, Chair of the 55 North Board. “This joining of forces by two forward-thinking organizations will create opportunities to increase the quality of life, health, independence and choices of seniors in the communities we serve.”
55 North’s innovative Digital Connect program provides free one-on-one tech support to seniors, as well as complimentary computer tablets and internet access for one year to those who qualify. With a full calendar of online health, wellness and social programming, participants stay connected and have digital access to telehealth appointments, worship services, ordering groceries and more, all while remaining safe at home. Meals on Wheels plans to scale and expand these services.
“We are passionate about ending senior hunger and loneliness. This joining of forces will allow Meals on Wheels to transform connection for seniors, and help us to innovate and win the very real fight against food insecurity and malnourishment in our community,” Steele added.
July 8, 2022
Meals on Wheels raises funds, food for victims of the Goshen tornado
On the afternoon of July 6, torrential rain and winds blew through the area. Many in the area lost power. Some lost a lot more. Three tornados touched down as part of that storm that afternoon, the most destructive ripping through the community of Goshen.
As soon as the rain stopped, the help started. Meals on Wheels got a call from Fox19, Altafiber and the Bell Charitable Foundation saying they wanted to host a phoneathon to raise money to help the citizens of Goshen, and asked if we would turn that money into aid. We said yes.
As our CEO, Jennifer Steele, said at the time, “The heart of our organization is providing meals and connection to those who need food, care and compassion. Our hearts break for the seniors and other victims of the tornadoes. Along with our partners, we’re uniquely positioned to be there during their time of great need.”
RDI Corporation and TQL Logistics stepped up as partners and agreed to pack the meals and deliver them. Through the phoneathon, residents of Greater C incinnati donated more than $50,000. We immediately began creating shelf-stable meals so the people will have food and energy to clean up and rebuild. Returning to normal after a disaster like this takes months, sometimes years. It’s a long-term effort, and we will be there for them every step of the way.
June 2, 2022
Meals on Wheels CEO featured on Fox19 "Breaking Through" segment
about women making a difference in the community
FOX19 has started a new weekly segment, “Breaking Through,” featuring women making a difference in the community through business, teaching, or volunteering. On June 2, they focused on someone who does all three – Meals on Wheels CEO Jennifer Steele.
“I gained so much from what I learned from those who taught me and with people who were able to lead by example so I hope I’m able to do that for others too,” said Steele.
June 1, 2022
Meals on Wheels taking part in several events during Pride Month
As part of the Meals on Wheels mission to support all seniors, the organization is taking part in several upcoming events in recognition of Pride Month. LGBTQ+ seniors are among the most vulnerable populations when it comes to issues of isolation, loneliness and hunger, so this was our way of reaching out to them and making it known that we care about and are happy to serve ALL seniors.
Among the events the organization is participating in are:
- Cincinnati Magazine's Pride Happy Hour, Friday, June 24, from 4:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
- Cincinnati Pride Parade, Saturday, June 25, starting at 10:00 a.m.
- Cincinnati Pride Festival, Saturday, from noon to 6:00 p.m.
- TestFest, a free HIV test screening, Monday, June 27, at New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn.
May 17, 2022
Meals on Wheels CEO named Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky
Under her leadership, Meals on Wheels has grown into one of the largest and most influential community-based organizations serving seniors in the country.
With more than 15 years of service in the nonprofit sector, Jennifer’s approach to community impact blends a deep respect for history and values with a relentless drive for change and innovation. She approaches problem-solving with empathy and compassion for others, a deep understanding of systemic social issues, grit, and determination to find a better way. Jennifer believes that it’s possible to transform the way that our community and country show up for the seniors who helped to shape and build it, and she channels all her energy into exploring possibilities and blazing new trails.
Jennifer received her Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Public Administration degrees from Northern Kentucky University, where she has served as an adjunct faculty member. She has been honored by the Leadership Council for Nonprofits with the VUCA (Vision, Understanding, Clarity & Agility) award, by both of her alma mater programs as a Distinguished Alumnus, and is a graduate of Leadership NKY. She currently serves as a national board member for Meals on Wheels America and volunteers for Saturday Hoops and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Jennifer lives in Ft. Thomas with her daughter Vivienne.
“I am so grateful for the women and men who surround me with love and support, and who have sponsored me and cleared the brush,” said Jennifer. “I’m also grateful for the people and situations that have challenged me to stay soft while fighting harder, to lock arms with others when I’m tempted to go it alone and to get creative in solving the problems that we’re all facing together.”
May 4, 2022
CEO Jennifer Steele talk to WLWT about how inflation
is having a major impact on Meals on Wheels
For those who may not have noticed, the price of pretty much everything is on the rise. For Meals on Wheels, the increased cost of food and gas has a major impact. We put 80,000 miles on our vehicles each month, so with gas prices $1 more than they were last year, that’s an additional $4,200 a month in expenses. That caught the attention of WLWT News 5, which interviewed CEO Jennifer Steele about what that means to our ability to serve seniors.
May 1, 2022
Meals on Wheels celebrates Older Americans Month in May
May is Older Americans Month. Though we celebrate seniors every day, this month gives everyone the opportunity to honor and embrace the knowledge, experiences, and cumulative accomplishments of those who have soared into the golden years of their lives.
We have so much we can learn from seniors!
"The most meaningful advice I've found from older adults is 'Just keep celebrating every day,' and 'Laughter keeps you healthy,'" says Meals on Wheels CEO Jennifer Steele. "With our volunteer-delivered birthday boxes, we are able to help seniors (and all of us!) celebrate their milestones. I also feel fortunate to experience the grace and humor our seniors share with us, from funny stories told to drivers to one-liners dropped at congregate meals."
This year’s theme for Older Americans Month is “Age My Way,” which focuses on how older adults can age in place and live independently in their communities for as long as possible. That belief – “Age My Way” – is at the core of everything we do at Meals on Wheels. It is the heart of our mission and it is truly why we do what we do. Our goal is to give seniors the essential services they need to remain in the comfort of their own homes, independent and healthy.
Meals on Wheels invites everyone to join us in our celebration of Older Americans Month! Volunteer to deliver meals and spend time with our seniors. Help us create birthday boxes to honor people like Mary, who turned 104 this year.
If you can't give your time, you can make a donation in the name of an older American who has made an impact on your life. It all makes a difference, to us and to the community.
April 1, 2022
Meals on Wheels celebrates National Volunteer Month in April
Every day at Meals on Wheels there’s a group of people who work silently behind the scenes and without great fanfare. They do big things and small things, and without them we couldn’t do all of the things that we do to help our seniors. They’re our volunteers.
Some are regulars, some are first-timers, but all of them are vital to what we do. Last year, more than 1,500 volunteers contributed 2,240 hours to our efforts. Volunteering is such a selfless act, and to realize that many people gave that much time to help improve the lives of our seniors is just mind-blowing.
April is National Volunteer Month, a time when we are to pause and recognize their sacrifice, their skills and their importance to our mission. So that’s what we want to do. Our volunteers are our unsung heroes. If you are one of them, we can’t say it enough: THANK YOU!
If you aren’t yet a volunteer, now’s a great time to become one. This summer, we have opportunities to join the many individuals and families who help move our mission forward to ensure seniors are living with dignity. And this fall, we have two signature events—the Pie-K 5K and Bust a Crust!—where you and your friends can volunteer for Meals on Wheels and make a difference. Sign up to volunteer!
March 14, 2022
Meals on Wheels celebrates National Pi(e) Day
by handing out pies around town
March 14 is National Pie Day because it's abbreviated 3.14, which is also the mathematical equation pi. To celebrate, Meals on Wheels is hosting a Pi(e) Day Party at Fueled Collective on Oakley, and driving around town throughout the day, handing out individually sized apple, cherry and pecan pies. Some of the planned stops include the math departments at Xavier, UC and NKU.
People are encouraged to follow the day's activities on social media using the hashtag #pieday or visiting our Pi(e) Day web page, which includes photos from the day as well as videos of Busta, our pie mascot from Bust a Crust! at www.muchmorethanameal.org/pie-day.
February 23, 2022
Meals on Wheels, CASS mark one-year anniversary of merger,
celebrate synergy and benefit to seniors
On Feb. 23, Meals on Wheels marked the one-year anniversary of its merger with Cincinnati Area Senior Services. The two agencies shared a similar mission of
helping the region’s seniors live independently and thrive, and the synergy created by combining these operations has proven to be a benefit to everyone over the past year.
In 2021, Meals on Wheels served 1.4 million meals to 10,000 seniors in 12 counties throughout Greater Cincinnati, utilizing the gifts of 150 employees and 1,000 volunteers. While both organizations served the senior community, they each offered services the other did not. By having all services now available under a single organization, those in need are able to find help faster and easier, saving them time and energy.
Those services that both organizations offered independently were combined, creating efficiencies and savings through economies of scale and reduction of overlap.
“The merger was a great move for seniors,” says Tracey Collins, who shifted from CEO of CASS to Chief Integration Officer for the merged organization. “As a single organization, we’ve been able to serve them in ways that we couldn’t do separately. From the business perspective, we retained all of our programs and services, and no one lost their job. In fact, we added jobs.”
“After a year, I think everyone universally agrees that combining the agencies was a good move, both for the organizations and, especially, for the region’s seniors,” says Jennifer Steele, who retained the role of CEO of the combined agencies. “We are a stronger organization overall, and that has allowed us to better serve the senior community not only in the traditional ways we have served them for decades, but also in new ways that meet the ever-changing needs of what is a rapidly growing aging
January 29, 2022
Meals on Wheels steps into disaster response role, responding to winter storm emergency
month after helping Kentucky tornado victims
All you have to do is step outside your door or just look out your window to realize that the roads are not suitable for driving. That makes life tough when your job requires you to be behind the wheel of a van, delivering meals throughout the region.
Getting seniors their meals is our highest priority, but keeping our drivers safe is just as high of a priority. It can be a tough balance. That’s why earlier this week we decided to not risk sending our drivers out in this weather. Instead, we decided to deliver all of Thursday’s meals on Wednesday. It was a last-minute decision and created a mad scramble. Our staff pulled the meals, and we sent out an urgent message asking for volunteers to help us make the deliveries ahead of the storm. And they did. We had more than a dozen volunteer drivers step forward and make sure our seniors had their food. On a normal day, we deliver around 4,000 meals. On Wednesday, we delivered nearly 8,000 meals. As a supporter, you should feel proud of the people who work and volunteer every day to keep our seniors safe and fed.
We prepare for snow storms and other disasters each year, packing two-day emergency food boxes that we keep on hand in case a disaster hits. However, in January, we expanded our emergency relief efforts…twice! First, we packed and delivered 14-day food boxes to seniors in rural areas of Kentucky, where recovery from winter weather like this typically takes much longer. And, we expanded our efforts outside of the region for the first time by packing and delivering 1,000 boxes of food to seniors in Western Kentucky who are still struggling to recover from the devastating tornadoes that struck in December.
We asked CEO Jennifer Steele about these efforts in Western Kentucky.
Why did MOW decide to take a leadership role in the tornado relief effort for W. Kentucky?
"Our hearts broke when we learned of the devastation, including the destruction of the senior nutrition site. So many seniors had lost their homes, had significant damage, and/or had no access to the nutrition that they depended on. We immediately reached out to our partners at the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, and they put us in touch with their counterparts in Western Kentucky, who asked us if we could prepare 1,000 shelf-stable meal boxes for delivery just after Christmas. These meals don’t need to be refrigerated or heated, so they’re ideal for disaster relief situations in which there may be limited power or running water. It was our busiest time of year, but our team knew that we couldn’t possibly turn our backs on those seniors and families when we had the capacity, resources, and experience to respond in exactly the
way that they needed. We’d quickly activated volunteers to help create boxes of non-perishable food during the early days of the COVID shutdowns, and we knew that we could do it again. We always try to say yes when there is a need, and it was just the human, right thing to do."
Why is TQL an important partner in the effort?
"We’re in the logistics business ourselves, but we deliver individual meals directly to the doorsteps of seniors in need. In this case, we needed to move more than 1,000 meals in boxes on pallets over hundreds of miles via a semi-truck to reach the devastated area of Dawson Springs, KY. TQL specializes in this, and their Moves That Matter program came to the rescue. We didn’t have to worry about locating or coordinating with a truck driver, and could focus on ensuring that we had the food, volunteers and funding needed to respond quickly to the disaster relief effort. Our partners in Western Kentucky are able to focus on recovery and response."
How can others help support the recovery effort, which is sure to be an extended period of time due to the destruction?
"The response to our efforts has been truly overwhelming, and we’re so moved and grateful. People can help support the recovery by signing up to be notified of our volunteer opportunities, and/or by making a financial gift to help cover the cost of food, supplies and transportation."
December 31, 2021
2021 Year in Review
As we head into the final hours of 2021, we wanted to reach out one more time and say thank you for all of the financial and moral support you offered us this year. In the long history of Meals on Wheels, this has been without a doubt one of the most astonishing and amazing years the organization has ever seen. In addition to still handling the increased demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we underwent a great deal of growth and change.
- In February, we joined forces with Cincinnati Area Senior Services, creating one of the largest local community-based nonprofits in the region. Together, we formed an organization that serves “much more than a meal” to area seniors by giving them a single location to find the services they need to live with the freedom and dignity they deserve.
- Also in February, we reopened our Over-the-Rhine Senior Center, giving our seniors a place to eat and socialize after being socially isolated for more than a year because of the pandemic.
- In April, we received a $100,000 grant from the L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation for the purchase of new kitchen equipment to help us meet our increased need.
- In September, we opened a satellite office in Northern Kentucky to better meet the growing needs of our seniors in that region. We provide services in eight Northern Kentucky counties.
- In September, we held our inaugural Pie-K 5K run/walk as a kickoff to our Bust a Crust! fundraiser. More than 400 people attended the event.
- In November, we helped make Thanksgiving festive by selling more than 3,000 pies during our second annual Bust a Crust! event. Proceeds from the sale of the pies generated more than $170,000 for our mission, and provided hot meals and other services for more than 7,000 seniors over the holiday season.
- In December, we held our Be a Santa to a Senior event in which gifts were purchased by community members for more than 125 seniors around the region. If not for the program, many of the seniors would not have received a holiday present.
- Also in December, we stepped up to help our Western Kentucky neighbors who were devastated by tornadoes by packing 1,000 shelf-stable food boxes that will be shipped to the region in early January with the help of TQL’s Moves That Matter.
It was, to say the least, a busy – but rewarding – year. None of it, though, would have been possible without you. And for that we are eternally thankful. Please have a safe and Happy New Year. Let’s do it again in 2022.
December 17, 2021
Meals On Wheels Southwest Ohio And Northern Kentucky Providing
Food For Tornado Victims And Disaster Relief Responders In Kentucky
Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky is sending thousands of individually packaged, shelf-stable meals to Western Kentucky in an effort to
support seniors and families dealing with the aftermath of last weekend’s deadly tornadoes. At least 74 people were killed by the series of tornadoes that tore a 200-mile path through the state. That number is expected to grow as responders slowly dig through the rubble. More than 1,000 families were also left homeless or had their properties severely damaged as part of the disaster, while thousands more remain without electricity.
"As we watched the videos and saw the photos, our hearts went out to everyone in Western Kentucky, and we thought about the seniors having to navigate shelters, hunger and the cold,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. “Our immediate thought was, ‘How can we help?’
"The heart of our organization is providing meals to those who need food, care and compassion. We have the infrastructure, the knowledge and the heart to help during this tragedy and we’re uniquely positioned to help seniors and others in the area alongside our partners.”
Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky provides roughly 1.4 million meals to seniors across a 12-county region, including eight counties in Kentucky. It is one of the largest Meals on Wheels organizations in the United States.
“We reached out to our partners at the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, and they put us in touch with their counterparts in Western Kentucky,” said Steele. “Their senior nutrition site was destroyed. They still don’t have electricity in the area, so our shelf-stable boxes are ideal. They’re individually packaged, complete meals that require no heating or refrigeration.”
The meals will be boxed to provide a week’s worth of food.
Moves that Matter, the charitable arm of Cincinnati-based logistics provider TQL, is partnering with Meals on Wheels to transport the meals to the needed area, and the American Red Cross Greater Cincinnati Tri State Chapter is helping to connect with volunteers on the ground for distribution.
Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteers to help package the shelf-stable food in boxes, and has set up a special volunteer portal for individuals or groups find a convenient time to help. The portal is on the organization’s website, www.muchmorethanameal.org. Individuals or corporations looking to donate can do so on a special Disaster Relief page on the organization’s website, www.muchmorethanameal.org. All donations are 100 percent earmarked for supporting the disaster
relief in Western Kentucky.
“Food is the most basic of human needs,” said Steele. “Providing a meal to someone in need, or in the midst of a tragedy or disaster, provides more than just the physical sustenance that they need to endure the stress and physical demands of the aftermath. It’s a way to reach out to another person, to show that someone cares, and to give them hope. We’re so thankful that we’re able to respond, with the help of our volunteers and partners.”
November 18, 2021
The Bust a Crust! fundraiser for Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY
raises record amount to feed thousands of local seniors this holiday season
Officials from Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY announced today that their fundraiser, Bust a Crust!, raised a record $171,000 through the sales of 2,000 pies and corporate support, which provides for 6,840 meals for area seniors for one week.
“We thank our generous community for their continued support of Bust A Crust!, our largest fundraiser of the year,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “We doubled our pie sales this year which helps us double the number of seniors we can serve.”
In its second year, the Bust A Crust! fundraiser for Meals on Wheels offered Thanksgiving pies for sale from local bakers and bakeries to support seniors. Fifteen area companies purchased pies in bulk and more than 300 volunteers helped Bust A Crust! succeed by volunteering time at the event’s PieK race in September and Saturday’s pie distribution event at Xavier University.
For more information about Bust a Crust!, visit www.BustACrust.org.
October 7, 2021
Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio & Northern Kentucky CEO Jennifer Steele Joins National Board of Meals on Wheels America
SEPTEMBER 28, 2021
Meals on Wheels Expands to Northern Kentucky to Serve More Seniors
INDEPENDENCE, KY—Meals on Wheels of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky held an open house for community partners and members of the media at its new satellite location, 10100 Toebben Drive, Independence, Kentucky. The new location will help bring much needed space to accommodate the growth in meals to seniors.
The new Meals on Wheels location will allow the organization to show its expanded commitment to partner with Northern Kentucky agencies and provide enhanced service to Northern Kentucky seniors through dedicated routes, vehicles, storage and distribution space. It also provides a more robust position for Meals on Wheels to respond to the crisis in aging, especially in Kentucky. The Commonwealth currently has the highest rate of food insecurity among people aged 50-59 in the nation. Every day, some of these individuals become seniors.
The Open House included special pie deliveries from the Meals on Wheels “Pie Mobile” and an apple cart from Locust Creek Caramel Apples.
APRIL 27, 2021
WE RECEIVED A $100,000 GRANT FROM THE L&L NIPPERT CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
The grant will fund new kitchen equipment to help us meet increasing demand
CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY received a $100,000 grant from the L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation to purchase a new plating and sealing machine for its commercial-grade kitchen. The critical equipment will allow Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, the region’s largest Meals on Wheels provider, to continue meeting the rising need for its services among local seniors.
“This new equipment will enable us to meaningfully increase our production capacity, allowing us to serve even more seniors in the coming months and years,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “We are so grateful to the L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation for their generous support which will meaningfully improve the lives of so many in our community.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, requests for Meals on Wheels’ services have significantly increased. Meals on Wheels now produces more than a million meals per year, up from 250,000 meals per year. The nonprofit’s offerings include a full menu of 30+ traditional meal choices, along with 10 special menu options for seniors with specific dietary and medical needs, such as diabetes or Celiac disease.
The new plating and sealing machine will replace Meals on Wheels’ existing machine, which is out-of-date and too small for the growing nonprofit’s needs. The new equipment will also allow Meals on Wheels to create its own meal labels with large with more nutritional details and in a larger, easier-to-read fonts.
The L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation is a Cincinnati-based nonprofit dedicated to continuing Louis and Louise Nippert’s long-standing philanthropic efforts to benefit the residents of the tri-state area.
APRIL 8, 2021
OUR CEO HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED WITH ANOTHER AWARD
CINCINNATI—Jennifer Steele, the CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, has been named a Distinguished Alumna by Northern Kentucky University’s Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) program.
The program noted that Steel, a 2010 graduate, was selected for “her vision and agility in leading Meals on Wheels through change and innovation during the past few years, including a major rebranding and a merger.” In addition, the program called out Steele’s “leadership in serving and helping people and communities in Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati."
Steele will receive her award and share insights about work in public service career on Wednesday, April 28, beginning at 7:00 pm on Zoom. Those interested in joining the virtual program can RSVP to email@example.com.
Earlier this year, Steele was recognized with a Leadership Legacy Award from The Leadership Council of Nonprofits. They recognized Steele with their VUCA Award for “positively impacting her organization and the community through demonstrated Vision, Understanding, Clarity & Agility in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous world.”
FEBRUARY 23, 2021
OVER-THE-RHINE SENIOR CENTER RE-OPENS TO LIMITED CAPACITY AFTER PANDEMIC CLOSURE
FEBRUARY 23, 2021
TWO CINCINNATI AREA NONPROFITS ARE MERGING TO ENHANCE SERVICES TO OLDER ADULTS
Cincinnati Area Senior Services and Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern Kentucky are Combining Operations
CINCINNATI— The Over-the-Rhine Senior Center, at 1722 Race Street, is reopening in a limited manner after being temporarily closed about a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns for senior and staff health and safety. For the time being, the Center will operate on a limited capacity to those adults 60 and over who have been vaccinated. In addition, temperature and illness checks will be performed daily on all who enter. Social distancing will also be enforced.
- They will retain all of their programs and services.
- No one will lose their job due to the merger. In fact, more job opportunities are expected.
# # #
FEBRUARY 10, 2021
OUR CEO TO BE RECOGNIZED WITH LEADERSHIP AWARD
JANUARY 14, 2021
ACCOMPLISHED LOCAL EXECUTIVE JOINS OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS
CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY recently welcomed Mary Wagner, P&G SVP and CEO of iMFLUX, to its board. Wagner spent her career at P&G where she worked in various positions across the supply chain, working in both the US and China. In 2018, Wagner was appointed to run iMFLUX, a wholly owned subsidiary of P&G, that supplies molds and a new to the world injection molding process technology to P&G and customers around the world.
“I’m excited to join Meals on Wheels’ board to help support this critically important organization,” said Wagner. “Seniors in our community need support now more than ever, and I look forward to working with the Meals on Wheels team and other board members to continue providing existing and new services and programs.”
iMFLUX is a startup that is partnering broadly and beginning to scale its operations with an ambitious vision to change the way the world molds. Wagner’s experience in supply chain and growing an innovative business will be especially valuable on Meals on Wheels’ board.
“We are thrilled to welcome Mary to our board, and we know that her professional experience and passion for our mission will help guide our organization in the coming months and years as we continue to identify innovative ways to support seniors in our community,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels.
DECEMBER 15, 2020
MEALS ON WHEELS SOUTHWEST OH & NORTHERN KY RECEIVES $4 MILLION GIFT FROM MACKENZIE SCOTT
The gift is the largest, by far, in the organization's history
NOVEMBER 20, 2020
MEALS ON WHEELS SOUTHWEST OH & NORTHERN KY PREPARES MORE THAN 1,700 THANKSGIVING PIES FOR PICKUP
The Bust-A-Crust Campaign Raised $59,000 through pie sales, donations and partnership to feed local seniors
CINCINNATI— Hundreds of pies are ready for pickup at Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY on Saturday November 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. as part of its first annual Bust a Crust! fundraiser. The new program allowed people to purchase locally baked Thanksgiving pies—available in pumpkin, apple, and pecan—and all funds go towards feeding local seniors, with the $25 cost per pie feeding a senior for an entire week. The first year for Bust a Crust! was such a success that Meals on Wheels sold out of pies before the campaign was set to end.
“We are so grateful to our community for supporting the Bust a Crust! program to help us raise the necessary funds to meet the increasing need in our community so no senior goes hungry this holiday season,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “Requests for our Meals on Wheels services have nearly tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, so we are doing everything in our power to help feed local seniors so they can stay healthy, safe and independent in their homes.”
The heartwarming turnout for this event not only included people purchasing pies for themselves, but people purchasing pies to donate to local seniors, making additional donations, and sponsoring the program. From October 19 to November 16, the campaign reached:
- 1,767 pies sold or donated to seniors
- $59,000 raised to deliver meals to seniors
- 63 community volunteers volunteered more than 178 hours
- 26 corporate partners
Bust a Crust! would not be possible without the pie masters who generously donated pies, including:
Busken, Kroger, Chartwells, Fork and Pie Bakery, The Lytle Park Hotel, Mama Rose’s, Nay Mama’s Sweet Treats, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, Taste of Belgium. In addition, the program received significant support from corporate sponsors: Wordsworth Communications, Robert Half, Graydon, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Barnes Denning, J.T.M Food Group, Accessible Solutions Inc., Alison & Lee Bushman, Derringer Food Service, Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Millennium Business Systems, Preferred Packaging Sales & Service, Reinhart Foods, Skyline, Storyocity, and the TQL Foundation.
OCTOBER 17, 2020
THIS THANKSGIVING, PAY IT FORWARD WITH PIE
Every $25 pie sold enables Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY to feed a local senior fo ran entire week
CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY just launched a new program called Bust a Crust! to help people celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday while also supporting seniors in the community. Bust a Crust! allows anyone in Greater Cincinnati to purchase a locally baked pie for themselves or a loved one, and the $25 cost provides funds for Meals on Wheels to feed a local senior for an entire week.
“Bust a Crust! will help us continue raising the necessary funds to meet the increasing need in our community so no senior goes hungry this holiday season,” said Jennifer Steele, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “Requests for our Meals on Wheels services have nearly tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, so we are doing everything in our power to help feed local seniors so they can stay healthy, safe and independent in their homes.”
Pies are available to purchase online between October 19 and November 16. There are four flavors available—apple, pecan and pumpkin—all from local sources, including Busken Bakery, Kroger, Reinhart Foods, Subito, and the Queen City Club. There is also a featured pie from Executive Chef Michael McIntosh at Subito’s in the Lytle Park Hotel. Customers can pick up their pies at Meals on Wheels’ headquarters in Price Hill (2091 Radcliff Drive) on November 21, just in time for Thanksgiving. The pies will be baked and require no refrigeration.
Individuals or groups looking to purchase pies in bulk for gifts or large gatherings can purchase them at a discount. Orders of 20 or more cost $15 per pie and orders of 50 or more cost $13 per pie. In addition, Meals on Wheels will deliver orders of 20 or more, in bulk, pies to any local address.
“So many of us top off our Thanksgiving feasts with pie, so just think about how much better that pie will taste when you know it’s helping to feed seniors right here in our community,” said Sara Celi, a local author, Meals on Wheels board member and chairperson of Bust a Crust! “We hope people find it hard to say ‘no’ to a chance to eat well and do well at the same time.”
Bust a Crust! would not be possible without Meals on Wheels’ corporate sponsors: Storyocity, Wordsworth Communications, Robert Half, Accessible Solutions, Derringer Food Service, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Millennium Business Solutions and Skyline. (A portion of dessert sales at Subito will also be donated to Meals on Wheels during the Bust a Crust! program.)
JULY 15, 2020
LOCAL NONPROFITS PARTNER TO DELIVER ADULT INCONTINENCE PRODUCTS TO SENIORS IN NEED
The new initiative will hopefully expand in 2021 pending pilot program results, funding
CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY and Fly & Dry Basic Needs Bank are launching a new pilot program to deliver adult incontinence products to seniors in Greater Cincinnati. Fly & Dry Basic Needs Bank, whose parent organization, COVERD Greater Cincinnati, also runs Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank and Tidal Babe Period Bank, knew there was a need for incontinence products among adults in the community, so partnering with Meals on Wheels to reach seniors ages 60+ was the perfect fit.
The pilot program began in early July and includes 50 Meals on Wheels clients in Greater Cincinnati. Participants—who were identified in partnership with case managers at the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky Area Development District—will receive a pack of seven products each week with their regularly scheduled Meals on Wheels delivery.
“We’ve seen an increase in requests for adult incontinence products from many of our partners, so we’re excited to launch this new initiative to support even more members of our community,” said Megan Fischer, CEO and Founder of Fly & Dry Basic Needs Bank. “We know that this is a sensitive topic for many adults, so being discreet and respectful through this program is one of our top priorities.”
Fly & Dry Basic Needs Bank and Meals on Wheels are working to finalize packaging and training drivers about the new pilot to ensure that clients feel comfortable receiving the new products.
“Basic needs such as soap, toilet paper, and personal hygiene items have become more difficult for seniors to obtain during COVID-19,” said Jennifer Steele, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels. “Incontinence supplies are necessary for the health and dignity of the seniors we serve. This partnership is already having a dramatic improvement on seniors’ quality of life and health.”
Since seniors are most likely to develop severe complications from COVID-19, Meals on Wheels is working to provide the resources seniors need to stay safe and healthy in their homes. Since March, Meals on Wheels has developed several new initiatives to provide additional food and other necessities to home-bound seniors. The nonprofit is currently piloting a senior-focused grocery delivery app in partnership with Food Forest. In addition, Meals on Wheels launched an outreach effort where volunteers call local seniors to check in and see if they need assistance with food or other issues, and then connect them with local resources as needed.
The new pilot is expected to extend through the end of 2020. Then, Fischer hopes to expand the program to other community partners in the region, but it will depend on available funding. While the pilot program with Meals on Wheels only serves seniors ages 60+, Fischer emphasized that adults of all ages need incontinence products for a variety of reasons, such disabilities, chronic illnesses and trauma.
MAY 14, 2020
LOCAL NONPROFITS PILOT NEW GROCERY DELIVER SERVICE FOR SENIORS
Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY and Food Forest partnered to develop a food delivery app in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY is launching a new grocery and meal delivery app for local seniors in partnership with Food Forest as part of the nonprofit’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilot begins this week, and Meals on Wheels hopes to open the program to seniors 60+ in Greater Cincinnati in the next month.
“We are constantly looking for ways to provide local seniors with nutritious food while allowing them to stay safe in their homes throughout this crisis,” said Jennifer Steele, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “We’re excited to pilot a program that will expand delivery options to seniors during a time when it may be difficult to safely access food on their own.”
The Meals on Wheels-branded app is a version of Food Forest’s existing platform, which provides affordable grocery delivery to people living in food desserts, many of whom are low income. Food Forest launched in Walnut Hills in 2019 following the closure of Kroger’s location in that neighborhood.
“This partnership fits into our mission to address food insecurity and make online grocery shopping available to everyone,” said David Curtin, Founder and CEO, Food Forest. “Our goal is to help anyone who has trouble accessing fresh and affordable food, but we’re especially pleased to help seniors who are particularly at risk because of COVID-19.”
Meals on Wheels hopes to leverage donations and grant funding to reduce the cost for low-income seniors once the platform is available to the public, which is expected to be in about one month if the pilot proves successful. In addition, all Food Forest’s services accept SNAP and EBT benefits, unlike many other grocery delivery providers in the area.
Meals on Wheels understands that using new technology may be challenging for some seniors, so the pilot will also include innovations to help seniors understand how to best use the app. Seniors who remain uncomfortable ordering online—or who don’t have access to the necessary technology—will be able to place orders by phone for grocery and meal delivery.
“We’re hopeful that this program will help address the digital divide among older adults,” said Steele. “Seniors often need digital services like this the most but are often the least equipped to take advantage of them without proper support.”
Meals on Wheels and Food Forest will work with other partners to implement the program, including Produce Perks, a nonprofit that doubles grocery orders of fruits and vegetables for individuals using SNAP, as well as various agencies serving seniors in the community, including the Northern Kentucky Area Development District. Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation also provided critical funding to develop the new Meals on Wheels version of Food Forest’s app.
Once the pilot program is complete and the app is adjusted based on the findings, it will be available for download. Food Forest’s existing app is available for individuals and families looking for affordable meal delivery services within an 8-mile radius of Walnut Hills, including most of the urban core and some of Northern Kentucky.
APRIL 27, 2020
MEALS ON WHEELS LAUNCHES INNOVATIVE OUTREACH PROGRAM TO CONNECT WITH HOME-BOUND SENIORS
Volunteers and donations needed to support increased demand throughout COVID-19 crisis
CINCINNATI—As the coronavirus continues to threaten the health of local seniors, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY is leveraging the web-based platform Mobilize—used to engage volunteers and get out the vote during elections—to make check-in phone calls to home-bound seniors. The nonprofit launched the first-of-its-kind pilot program at the end of March and will extend the service throughout the region in the coming weeks.
Requests for Meals on Wheels’ services have nearly tripled. Many seniors who may have previously relied on family and friends for food, shopping and companionship are now alone and without financial support due to quarantine and job loss.
Using Mobilize, Meals on Wheels can recruit, train and schedule volunteers to connect directly with seniors in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. If a senior reports food insecurity, the Meals on Wheels team can respond immediately with an emergency food delivery and assess the need for ongoing services.
“Seniors are most at-risk for serious complications from COVID-19, so we don’t want them leaving their homes to get food and increasing their chances of catching the virus,” said Jennifer Steele, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “No senior should go hungry during this pandemic. This new program allows us to reach seniors who may not otherwise have the necessary support system required to stay fed throughout this crisis.”
To support the influx of new seniors in need, Meals on Wheels needs urgent donations. No senior is turned away during the crisis. Without donations from individuals, foundations and corporate partners, Meals on Wheels cannot continue to meet the increased demand. Donors can make contributions online or reach out to Meals on Wheels team.
“Earlier this week, we connected with a 92-year-old senior who reported not having enough food and being scared to leave the house because of coronavirus risks,” said Steele. “We were able to secure a volunteer to deliver meals directly to that senior’s door just hours later, completely paid for by charitable donations.”
Meals on Wheels provides several donation options to support emergency meals for seniors:
- $50 provides a nonperishable 14-day emergency box of meals
- $100 buys a month of dairy and fresh produce
- $250 supports one month of home-delivered lunches
- $600 provides one month of breakfast, lunch and dinner
- $1,250 provides 6 months of home-delivered lunches
Volunteers who participated in the pilot program have already connected with nearly 2,000 local seniors. To be able to reach seniors throughout the entire region in coming weeks, Meals on Wheels needs approximately 90 additional volunteers to make calls.
Jens Sutmoller, a political campaign and public affairs consultant, developed the idea and brought it to Meals on Wheels. He continues working closely with the Meals on Wheels team on a pro bono basis to help establish the call campaign.
“I’ve worked with phonebank and volunteer technology like Mobilize in the past, and it is the perfect platform to help Meals on Wheels increase its reach to connect with more seniors in need throughout this crisis,” said Sutmoller. “I’m proud to support Meals on Wheels’ efforts with these repurposed tools.”
Meals on Wheels is also collaborating with United Way of Greater Cincinnati, one of the program’s initial funders, to incorporate United Way’s 211 support system into the Mobilize platform.
“We know seniors are at high risk during this pandemic and in need of food, but many have other needs too, and they don’t know where to turn,” said Moira Weir, United Way of Greater Cincinnati President and CEO. “Through our ongoing collaboration with Meals on Wheels, we were able to connect their technology to our 211 system and offer seniors other resources for paying rent, filling medications and meeting other needs so they stay safe at home.”