There are approximately 5,000 Meals on Wheels chapters throughout the United States, each with the same purpose: to provide home-delivered meals, groceries, and group meals to homebound, elderly, and disabled clients who cannot shop or cook for themselves or have no one to assist them with these tasks on a regular basis. Through these efforts, Meals on Wheels helps to keep the aging and disabled living safely and independently at home.
Montgomery County has several Meals on Wheels chapters, including in Wheaton, Rockville, Germantown and Takoma Park. Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland serves parts of Montgomery County, as well as six other Maryland counties and Baltimore City. The Food Council had the opportunity to visit the Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (MOWCM) facility in Baltimore to learn more about their operation. MOWCM serves approximately 1500-1600 clients per day, touching nearly 3,000 individuals each year, and delivering over 1 million meals to seniors in need. MOWCM conducts deliveries Monday-Friday, using 21 regional distribution sites and 156 home delivery routes. The facility prepares most of the meals from scratch, and contracts with Valley Services for ingredients and some pre-made or semi pre-made items.
Our tour of the facility included a behind-the-scenes look as the many volunteers and staff members prepared food for an afternoon delivery. MOWCM kitchen operations are overseen by a mix of staff and volunteers, and deliveries are conducted by 33 vans driven by staff and by over 2,000 volunteers driving their own cars. All of the operations and coordinating efforts are overseen by a small staff.
MOWCM works with clients on a case-by-case basis to determine the price that each recipient can pay for their food, whether it be a nickel per meal, or fair market value. Since 75% of MOWCM clients live at or below the federal poverty line, the organization’s efforts help to alleviate food insecurity in Central Maryland. MOWCM drivers not only provide essential daily human contact to the seniors they serve, they are also trained to screen for changes in the seniors’ health, safety and wellness, and to alert case managers if extra attention is needed.
MOWCM’s work is moving Maryland towards good, equitable food for all, even those that can’t leave their homes to get it.