By Judith Pritchett Wade
Special to The Enterprise
Since the first delivery of Meals on Wheels in 1954 by a compassionate small group in Philadelphia, Meals on Wheels America has had a single goal: to support its senior neighbors and help extend their independence and health as they age.
Today, 5,000 local Meals on Wheels programs throughout the country make Meals on Wheels America one of the nation’s largest and most effective social movements. More than 40 percent of the recipients live in poverty; 64 percent are women; and 20 percent are veterans; and 9 out of 10 say the service improves their health.
In Tennessee, funding for M.O.W. comes from the federal Older Americans Act of 1965 to the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability. Tennessee divides these federal funds among nine area agencies throughout the state; and these nine agencies work locally to help provide the meals for seniors.
Dresden’s Meals on Wheels program, based at the Weakley County Office of the Aging, is served and funded in part by Tennessee area agency #7, the Northwest Tennessee Human Resource Agency in Martin (NWTHRA), and Dresden also receives funds from the Weakley County Government. NWTHRA Nutrition Staff Director James Moore uses Valley Food Services, Inc. in Milan to provide meals to the Dresden Commission on the Aging that are delivered in Dresden, Latham and Gleason.
On public holidays, however, when the Dresden center is closed, volunteers from the First United Methodist Church deliver home-prepared Meals on Wheels. The Methodist Church began its mission with M.O.W. in 1996 and continues to deliver food, compassion, and care to its aging neighbors today, even with the pandemic diminishing the number of volunteers and the December tornado destroying the church building. Seven local church members work from one of their homes to supply a nutritious meal to approximately 30 deserving recipients on holidays. With each delivery, these seniors get a quick safety check and much-needed human connection on holidays when it is often the most needed.
Sadly, however, M.O.W. America feeds only 2.4 million (27 percent) of the 9 million seniors in the country who are struggling with hunger. In addition, it is predicted that the senior population in America will double by 2050. Families are spreading out; and many older parents with financial and physical limitations are being left behind, struggling to prepare and/or shop for food.
Both Keita Cole, state Director of Aging Nutrition, and the area’s Director of Nutrition James Moore in Martin report a need for local donors and volunteers. Those interested in donating, volunteering, or requesting services may contact the area NWTHRA central office in Martin at 1-800-750-6866.