Meals on Wheels slices through hunger, melts hearts

By Shane Battis

Meals on Wheels slices through hunger, melts hearts from Shane Battis on Vimeo.
Delivery trucks spur to life every weekday distributing hot meals all over Fort Worth to people in need of a helping hand.
Meals on Wheels is a Tarrant County non-profit focused on serving people who are homebound and can’t feed themselves. It mostly serves elderly, disabled and low-income residents.
When their operations began in 1973, it was small and served only 25 clients. Now, according to Public Relations Specialist Iris Burton, the program serves about 1,950 clients throughout the county.
Below is a map of the 46 meal distribution sites in Tarrant County. Volunteers pick up the hot meals at these locations and drive them to clients’ homes.

The people who need to regularly receive meals are those under some health risks, according to Nutrition Services Manager Allison Feather. Malnutrition, she said, is a problem in the county.
Some of their clients live in “food deserts,” which are places too far away from grocery stores for residents to make habitual trips. Gas stations and Dollar Generals may be the next best thing for these residents–hardly a sustainable diet.
The packaged meals are planned to meet one-third of the daily nutritional recommendation to keep diets regulated and clients healthy.
“Providing these meals helps them stay in their homes, helps prevent hospitalizations and ultimately helps reduce health care costs,” Feather said.

But the service fills more than just empty stomachs, it fills the often monotonous and isolated lives of their clients with a friendly face.
Burton talked about how homebound clients usually have few visitors and virtually no interaction with the world outside the walls of their homes. This lifestyle, she said, lowers quality of life and can lead to serious depression.
The volunteers are a ray of light in between the dull hours.
“I think people don’t realize how lonely residents are and how much they depend on us,” Burton said. “Just knocking on the door and sharing a few words of encouragement can really impact someone’s life.”
Burton talked about one client in particular–an 80-year-old woman who is legally blind.
The woman told Burton that if she could see, she could tell her how many holes are in the living room wall where she spends day after day. Her daughter had referred her to the Meals on Wheels program.
Although she was reluctant to lose a degree of her independence at first, she soon became fond of the visits and reported that it’s become something to look forward to every day.
“For some clients the friendly faces, someone coming by to check on them means more than just the food they’re receiving,” Burton said.
This bond is a two way street for some delivery volunteers.
Dick Summerhays, who has been volunteering at Meals on Wheels for 25 years, talked about how his route has become an integral part of his retired life.
It all started when his friend Frank was recruited at his local church and Summerhays followed suit. He had recently retired and said he thought it was a good way to stay busy.
Years later, he’s hooked on the job and his regular clients. He talked about how he befriends some of the people on his stops and checks in on how they’re doing.
“I feel good about the people I think I’m really helping,” Summerhays said.
Summerhays makes an effort to get to know the people on his stops and likes to chat when he can. Most of the people he serves are elderly women who don’t have husbands or many people to talk with, he said.
“I’d miss it if I didn’t do it and I’d like to think they miss me when I don’t do it,” Summerhays said.
To learn more about Meals on Wheels visit their website.