NMC Commentary

Is Meals on Wheels Going to Continue?

Yes, Meals On Wheels is going to continue.  It is a deeply valued and important support service within our community (and beyond) that Northwestern Medical Center has been involved with directly for many years.  As you may have seen in the newspaper, or read in a letter from Age Well (the not-for-profit organization which runs Meals on Wheels), or heard in conversation in the community, there are changes coming to the program to improve it.  While any change can have its challenges, I am pleased that those involved are working together to ensure the service continues and is stronger and more sustainable going forward.

A few weeks ago, members of the NMC management team and the NMC Restaurant & Catering staff had a chance to meet with leaders from Age Well and community partners from the Franklin County Senior Center and the Care Partners Adult Day Center.  NMC was at the table because our staff and volunteers have cooked and packaged meals for Meals On Wheels for many years.  We are one of the many entities which did so for Meals On Wheels across the state.  It was a positive meeting where Age Well shared the detailed process they went through in determining how to improve their service and where those here in our community could have their questions answered to better understand the upcoming changes and the planned benefit to clients.  We appreciate the time and openness of the Age Well team in talking through the plans.

NMC staff have truly enjoyed making meals for Meals On Wheels.  Our volunteers have taken pride in packaging those meals so they would travel well to homes throughout our community.  All of us at NMC enjoy seeing the volunteers from the Franklin County Senior Center pick up those meals at NMC for delivery out to local people.  We would have been happy to continue to provide this service.  However, we do understand and support the work Age Well is doing to improve their service to all their clients.  Their previous model of having many groups cooking the food in various areas throughout Franklin, Grand Isle, Chittenden, and Addison counties created variation in the food.  It actually added cost due to duplication and waste – and not every meal preparation site could meet the nutritional content needs of all their clients.

After significant consideration, Age Well is moving to a new model where all of the meals for those four counties of northwestern Vermont will be produced by a single vendor.  Lindley Food Service of Rutland was selected through a careful review process and will take on their new role in July.  They have more than 20 years of experience in creating meals for Meals On Wheels in their area for years and have the systems, resources, and expertise to provide a more consistent service across the larger area.  I was pleased to hear from Age Well that Lindley has “strong relationships with local food producers and have the ability to recycle and reduce food waste.  Lindley has a focus on making great tasting, healthy food.  Menus are updated monthly by chefs to provide variety and take advantage or seasonal fruits and vegetables and all menus are reviewed by a dietitian.”  Those points make me feel good about transitioning our role to them, as they sound very aligned with the great work that our staff and volunteers have done. I am also very pleased to hear from Age Well that Franklin County Senior Center “will continue as a hub for Meals on Wheels and as a congregate meal site.”  That continuity will be great for the recipients of the meals, as it will likely be the same volunteers delivering the meals prepared by Lindley for those served by the Franklin County Senior Center hub.  They have a long history of great service, so it is nice to see that continue.

On behalf of our entire team, I would like to thank the recipients of Meals On Wheels we have served for welcoming our food into their homes over the years.  We also thank the Franklin County Senior Center and Age Well for partnering with us for so many years.  We are glad that the changes being put in place promise improvement and better sustainability for the service across the broader region.  For those who have questions about Meals On Wheels and the other wonderful services provided by Age Well, please visit their website at www.agewellvt.org or call their helpline at 1-800-642-5119.  We look forward to continuing to being involved in connecting patients we care for with this wonderful service in our community.

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer