SHREWSBURY – In late March, state Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) joined volunteers and Elder Services of Worcester Area (ESWA) coordinators to deliver Meals on Wheels in celebration of the 21st annual March for Meals.
According to a press release from ESWA, “the annual March for Meals commemorates the historic day in March 1972 when President Nixon signed into law a measure that amended the Older Americans Act of 1965 and established a national nutrition program for seniors 60 years and older.”
As part of March for Meals, Meals on Wheels programs around the country invited “local officials, local celebrities, and other prominent figures” to deliver meals.
“I try every couple of years to come participate in delivering Meals on Wheels,” Kane said. “I do a lot of work on reducing food insecurity, and this program is one that is critical for reaching our frail, homebound elders who don’t have the ability to get out often and get fresh groceries or even make a good meal for themselves.”
At the Shrewsbury Senior Center, volunteers packed hot meals for the day’s deliveries. According to ESWA, Shrewsbury volunteers make over 100 deliveries per day.
Allen Buteau, the Nutrition Operations Manager for ESWA and Kane’s Meals on Wheels partner for the morning, reiterated the importance of food and proper nutrition for the elderly.
“People need food, especially older people who are isolated at home who may not have the support system to be able to get the food they need,” he said.
While food is at the heart of Meals on Wheels, Kane stressed the importance of conversation and connection during deliveries.
“Last year we couldn’t get ahold of one of the folks that we had stopped in at, so we actually spent some time trying to reach them to make sure they were OK and that they hadn’t fallen inside the home and weren’t able to reach anyone. That gave me great insight into the critical link between the folks who are delivering the Meals on Wheels and the people at home who rely on that,” Kane explained.
“You’re not just dropping off the meal and running – you’re engaging,” she said.
Susan Denesha, the Nutrition Area Manager for ESWA, agreed with Kane.
“A lot of people sometimes really do not see anybody else [other than] the Meals on Wheels driver. We really are the eyes and ears of many people – if the driver sees something they are really nervous about, they come right back after the delivery and tell the site manager,” she said.
The enthusiasm was palpable as volunteers loaded meals into cars to prepare for delivery. Everyone was excited to make a difference in the local community.
“We get to make a lot of people happy, safe, secure, and well-fed every day,” Buteau said. “I get to go home and know that I got to make a positive difference in the world and an impact on our community that really is important.”
Kane noted that she also enjoys getting to know the Meals on Wheels volunteers.
“I also really appreciate the time to talk to the individual I’m riding with and to really understand what motivates them and it really is that commitment to give back and commitment to make sure our seniors who are homebound have a connection to the outside world. It’s always powerful how important this is in their life and what a priority they make to make sure that they are part of this,” she said.