Pilot Program Provides Meals to Westwood Seniors

By Don Wade

The housebound elderly woman had maybe a half-dozen boxes of cereal. She had been on a waiting list for Meals on Wheels for five years.

Now, she is one of 25 senior adults in a pilot project in Westwood’s 38109 ZIP code receiving enough food for two daily meals and snacks.

“If they’re not eating properly, they’re going to have health issues,” said Mid-South Food Bank President and CEO Estella Mayhue-Greer.

This month, the Food Bank and MIFA combined forces to launch a 20-week pilot project, Senior Nutrition Collaboration, in an effort to expand Meals on Wheels service to older adults. The program will serve people over age 60 that are nutritionally at risk due to illness, disability or lack of access. Clients receive 14 shelf-stable meals each week.

The Aging Commission of the Mid-South, which keeps the waiting list for Meals on Wheels, identified the first 25 participants in the pilot program. MIFA is investing about $12,000 in the project.

“All of this government funding is decreasing, yet waiting lists are increasing,” said MIFA Executive Director Sally Jones Heinz. “We knew we had to find a creative way to address this issue. And we’re already looking for ways to extend it and expand it, if we can.”

MIFA conducted pre-assessments to measure the health and nutritional status of the clients, and also their ability to provide for themselves. Assessments will be done again at the conclusion of the project.

Mayhue-Greer said much of the food comes in pop-top cans and that milk, juice and nutritional shakes are also included.

“Some of (the clients) may have difficulty cooking a full-blown meal,” she said.

“And just having somebody coming in once a week and checking on them is a nice add-on,” Heinz said.

Heinz also said the fact that the two agencies are working together hasn’t escaped the notice of MIFA board members and donors, who are pleased.

Said Mayhue-Greer of the partnership: “It’s just a great relationship.”