Meals on Wheels celebrates 40 years in community

Meals on Wheels is celebrating 40 years in Lacombe.

HEALTHY MEAL - Meals on Wheels client John Kangiesser is happy to see his hot and ready Meals on Wheels meal delivered to his home by a volunteer.

HEALTHY MEAL - Meals on Wheels client John Kangiesser is happy to see his hot and ready Meals on Wheels meal delivered to his home by a volunteer.

Meals on Wheels is celebrating 40 years in Lacombe.

The meal support program, which began in the city in 1976, continues to be a community service that not only promotes health but also independence.

In essence, the program is meeting an essential need in the community providing meals to individuals who cannot cook for themselves.

“The program helps maintain independence with nutritious meals delivered right to the home by caring volunteers,” said Ruth Riffin, Lacombe and District FCSS seniors program coordinator.

While Meals on Wheels can be seen as a service predominately offered for seniors, it’s also open to anyone who may be frail, ill, have a disability, or are unable to prepare meals for themselves for any reason.

Riffin noted that Meals on Wheels can be used on a long-term or short-term basis, depending on each individual’s need for the service.

“It helps people be independent in their homes,” explained Riffin. “Through the program, they (seniors) can stay longer in their own homes and receive nutrition through balanced meals.”

Meals on Wheels offers clients the freedom from worrying about how they will prepare their next meal and also relieves the responsibility of shopping, which can alleviate stress off those who have mobility issues.

The hot-n-ready meals are brought to each client’s door around noon by a volunteer five days a week. The meals feature usually a salad or soup, main course and a dessert. Riffin said most clients note that the meals are large enough to be two meals.

Frozen meals are also available once a month on a pre-order basis.

Through frozen Meals on Wheels, the entrees are prepared in advance at the Golden Circle kitchen in Red Deer and then delivered for clients to keep in their freezers until needed. Some clients use this service for days when hot meals may not be available.

Newly offered through the program is a vegetarian option.

“We’ve had many ask about it, so now it is a new option,” said Riffin.

Meals on Wheels also accommodates diabetic diets or no fish or pork diets.

Also new to program is HT Catering, who began as the new kitchen venue for the program this past August. The program currently serves 20 clients in the local area.

While Meals on Wheels is a food service, it does offer a socialization opportunity for both volunteers and clients.

“The social aspect is very important,” added Riffin. “I think the clients appreciate the social contact with the volunteers.”

While volunteers may only have a few minutes to drop off the meal, the moment can brighten a client’s day.

Meals on Wheels is provided on a volunteer basis.

In the beginning, the program’s volunteer base was mainly distributed through 12 local churches. Today, the program is operated through 10 churches and two organizations.

Riffin said volunteers are the critical glue to operate the service.

“We couldn’t offer this program without volunteers,” she said.

More volunteers are needed for the program, especially for an upcoming one-month period. Riffin suggests that a group or business, who has ample manpower, could volunteer their time, as opposed to an individual, due to the regularity of the program.

While Lacombe and District FCSS covers the City of Lacombe and all of Lacombe County, Meals on Wheels is only offered within the city limits. Meals on Wheels does come at a minimal cost. Veterans may find financial help for the program through Veterans Affairs.

For more information about the program, to sign up or to volunteer, contact FCSS at 403-782-6637.