It’s 6 a.m. at FoodNet Meals on Wheels. Cooks are beginning to prepare around 700 meals that will be delivered to over 400 older adults all throughout Tompkins County.
Meals on Wheels provides services to older adults including home delivery, social dining and comprehensive nutrition assistance.
Jessica Gosa, Executive Director of FoodNet Meals on Wheels, said she tends to see a spike in demand for meals in anticipation of the holiday season.
“A lot of our folks live alone and maybe don’t have that much family that’s close by. For us to be able to do something like a special holiday meal, it’s really just delivering that comfort to them, helping them to remember that their community really cares and remembers them,” said Gosa.
Although FoodNet provides meals to older adults, there’s an indirect benefit – a human connection.
“With Meals on Wheels, it’s more than a meal. The food is just one piece of it, and there’s so much more to our program,” said Kelly Quinn, Registered Dietician.
“We hear from our clients that their drivers are their heroes, their angels. The connection piece that they make with their driver is really powerful. Over 60% of our clients live alone so this might be the only person that they see in a day – the connection they are making each day goes a long way,’ said Gosa.
Although this organization helps hundreds of adults daily, it still hopes to generate awareness and help more people. Last Tuesday was #GivingTuesday, and FoodNet raised over $1,000 which will go towards the holiday meals that they give to their clients every year.
“That [money] will all go right into that meal to make it really special, not just for the congregate clients, but for the home-delivered meal clients as well, and so we’re excited about that because any extra money to throw right into the food cost is significant,” Gosa added.
However, Gosa says that there are always challenges, especially being a nonprofit. “It’s constantly that battle that we also know these spikes happen so we prepare for that and go with it,” said Gosa.
Another one of FoodNet’s challenges is addressing the various needs of its clients. Although some of the older adults that receive these meals suffer from food insecurity, Gosa said that malnutrition is sometimes an even bigger issue for their clients because it is so complex.
“It could be memory impairment that’s impacting your memory and remembrance to eat. It could be because you experienced a recent loss and eating alone isn’t appealing, or you don’t want to cook a big meal or you just don’t have the energy really to go out and cook anymore,” added Gosa.
Quinn believes that it is very important for these older adults to be able to interact with people on a daily basis, even if it is just the person delivering the meal.
“We work with them in a collaboration with other community partners to see how we can help them succeed in and thrive in their homes instead of just, you know, barely making it by and maybe surviving on peanut butter and jelly,” added Quinn.