Not having enough to eat is frightening for anyone. With the exponential rise in grocery prices over the last few months, food banks and food services for those in need, are more in demand than ever. For seniors who live on a fixed income and may face mobility and transportation issues, food insecurities can be even more daunting.
Meals on Wheels, a national program to combat food insecurities and isolation of seniors 60 plus and disabled people, is perhaps the most well-known program of its kind. With locations in nearly every community in the country, Meals on Wheels serves 2.4 million seniors annually.
Meals on Wheels is a federally funded nutritional program that utilizes volunteers to pack and deliver meals to seniors and disabled people who otherwise may not receive any nutritional meals. Some Meals on Wheels programs also operate congregate meals sites such as senior centers and through senior living complexes, offering meals onsite. Seniors receive a hot lunch as well as other food items to supplement their food needs through the Meals on Wheels program. A key component of Meals on Wheels is that seniors served also receive wellness checks and get to interact with the volunteers delivering their meals.
Several local organizations oversee Meals on Wheels delivered throughout the region, including Northern Area Multi Service Center (NAMS). NAMS also serves hot lunches through their four Senior Center locations. These include Sharpsburg and Tarentum, open five days a week: Etna, open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Allison Park, open Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Many of the seniors who come to the Sharpsburg Center also help prepare the meals for the Meals on Wheels program.
“We serve 400 plus meals a week through Meals on Wheels and our senior centers each week,” said Brian Metzer, Senior Director of Home and Community Programs.
A bonus of the Senior Centers is of course, the camaraderie and sense of community that the seniors who attend feel. They also get to volunteer in helping to provide the meals delivered through Meals on Wheels.
NAMS also provides transportation for seniors so they can grocery shop, attend farmers markets and visit food banks.
412 Food Rescue has become a well-known organization in the Western PA region that fights hunger while preventing food waste. They keep good, usable food from being thrown away and get it into the hands of folks who need it. They manage this effort through partners and volunteers who “rescue” food from food distribution centers, restaurants, caterers, and stores. Then, these volunteers deliver it to those who need it either through groups and organizations or individuals.
“One of the biggest ways that we assist seniors is that we deliver food to distributional hubs - it might be senior sites and centers, senior high-rises and other central locations,” said Leland Scales, Non-Profit Partner Relationship Manager.
412 Food Rescue works with the distribution sites in determining what food needs are suited for their area.
“We allow them to dictate what foods work best for their area – what is culturally appropriate, nutritional needs, etc. For example, they may tell us that a 50-pound bag of rice just may be too hard for them to use but potatoes might be really popular,” Scales said.
412 Food Rescue also works with partner organizations that have established programs to serve homebound seniors, and they are working to develop their home delivery program. Like many nonprofits, they are driven by volunteers who make deliveries and pick up donations.
412 Food Rescue serves the Greater Pittsburgh and Western PA region. Through their innovative Food Rescue Hero app, it is easy for volunteers to quickly become involved in food rescues. There are also numerous ways to volunteer besides food deliveries, including working at one of their locations to break down deliveries and more.
North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) helps seniors facing food insecurities through several avenues. With Free Rides for Seniors, a program with two 10-passenger shuttles that transports seniors to grocery stores, food pantries, farmers markets and other food sources via the shuttle service.
“Many seniors may live in areas where grocery stores are too far to walk to or it is too dangerous to walk to, so the transportation is vital,” said Tracy Elway, Free Riders for Seniors Team Leader. Other seniors may live near a convenience shop, but full-service grocery stores allow them to purchase healthier and fresher options.
“With the farmers market vouchers, a senior can be picked up and taken to a local farmers market to shop,” said Cathy Pschirer, In Service of Seniors Coordinator.
Seniors must be signed up for the transportation program which requires an intake at the senior’s home prior to receiving services.
In Service of Seniors volunteers also provides several additional services.
“We can shop for older adults, take a senior to the store to shop on their own if preferred, or pick up orders curbside,” Pschirer said.
Volunteers will also pick up food from one of NHCO’s three food pantries (Allison Park, Millvale, and North Boroughs) plus a once-a-month pop-up location and make a home delivery.
Meals on Wheels
Northern Area Multi-Service Center
or through the Area Agency on Aging at
North Hills Community Outreach
412 Food Rescue