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Meals on Wheels and More: Delivering meals, kinship to homebound seniors

Dec 2nd, 2015 | Category: Community

by Kate Ferry

Meal on Wheels and More, part of the Whatcom Council on Aging, offers home-delivered meals to homebound senior citizens. Formerly titled the “Senior Nutrition Program,” the non-profit organization delivered a total of 60,879 meals in 2014 to Whatcom and San Juan counties, visiting 150-175 homebound seniors each week.

According to Julie Meyers, Director for Meals on Wheels, the program is not income-based, though it is estimated that over “80 percent of the participants are very low income by the HUD guidelines.” Those residents receiving delivery must be 60 years or older and have difficulty shopping and/or preparing meals at home.

Sam Grubbs, owner of Bellingham Country Gardens farms, volunteers with Meals on Wheels. COURTESY PHOTO

Sam Grubbs, owner of Bellingham Country Gardens farms, volunteers with Meals on Wheels. COURTESY PHOTO

Meals on Wheels are offered on a donation only basis. “Although Meals on Wheels participants are asked to donate what they can to help pay for the meals, no one is denied service due to inability to donate.”

The logistical success of the Meals on Wheels & More program relies on an abundance of dedicated volunteers for preparing and delivering meals. All meals are prepared and frozen on site at the Bellingham Senior Center or purchased from a local supplier and delivered weekly Monday through Friday to homes in Whatcom and San Juan counties. Each participant receives seven meals, a half-gallon of milk, a loaf of whole grain bread and the occasional seasonal produce. The overall cost of the program (food, equipment, staffing, mileage, supplies, etc) is $6.55 per meal. According to the Northwest Regional Council Data, the Whatcom/San Juan County program has the lowest average cost per meal.

A registered dietician meets with each participant when they initially sign up and determines the nutritional needs of the individual. Participants will continue to meet with the dietician annually to monitor their needs and changes.

According to Meyers, “Seventy-five percent of participants are determined to be at high nutritional risk at the initial home visit”.

Meeting the nutritional needs of seniors is one the primary goals of the Meals on Wheels and More program. The Whatcom Council on Aging’s website states “seniors are at an increased risk of malnutrition for multiple reasons including: chronic or acute illness; decreased ability to shop for and to prepare healthy meals; depression and; lack of funds.”  In addition to ensuring these needs are met, the services of the program offer an important connection and necessary communication to keep seniors emotionally and physically well.

“We offer independence and a regular connection with others.  Our [volunteer] drivers may be the only regular contact our participants have with others outside the home,” Myers said. “Some of our drivers have been doing the same route for 20 years.”

Local farm connection

Meals on Wheels and More is in their fourth year of grant funding from the Whatcom Community Foundation that supports and supplements the purchase and use of local produce. With this grant, the program is able to purchase seasonable fruit and vegetables from local farms and include it in both the frozen meal recipes and as a fresh supplement in weekly deliveries.

Meals on Wheels meal. COURTESY PHOTO

Meals on Wheels meal. COURTESY PHOTO

“Participants really enjoy the fresh raspberries that are grown very near to them; sometimes [almost] in their backyard but they can’t [access or] purchase them without our help. They delight in the donut peaches we bring in from Eastern Washington and really appreciate the fresh variety,” Meyers said.

Funding for Meals on Wheels and More is a combination of donations, grants and federal funds. The program falls under the Older American Act and Senior Nutrition Act and as a result of this, gets approximately 35 to 40 percent of its funding from the federal government. Local programs are unique in that they are of the few remaining groups to deliver hot meals in Washington State. Similar services operate in Snohomish and King counties, as well as the Skagit County Meals on Wheels program that has over 300 volunteers and offers the choice of the delivery of freezer meals or hot, ready to eat options – across Skagit County. In 2013, 3,000 Skagit seniors received approximately 135,000 meals, 65,000 delivered hot daily to their homes.

Elsewhere in the state, Pierce County’s “Delivered Meals Program” runs through two church organizations: Catholic Community Services and Lutheran Community Services Northwest.

Additional information about local programs coming in future issues.


To sign up, volunteer, or donate:

• Whatcom or San Juan County: To learn more or sign up, contact (360) 733-4030. To volunteer, apply at the Bellingham Senior Center, 315 Halleck St, Bellingham. For more information, visit, and follow the group’s Facebook page.


• Skagit County: For delivery services, call (360) 416-1500. To volunteer, call (360) 416-1508. For more details, visit


• Snohomish County: For delivery services or to volunteer, call (425) 347-1229 or (800) 824-2183, or e-mail For more details, visit


• Island County: For delivery services or to volunteer, call (360) 321-1600 or (360) 678-3373. For more details, visit


Published in the December 2015 issue of Grow Northwest

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