Meals on Wheels expands eligibility to provide meals for people to ‘stay at home’

Originally published in the Katahdin Region News

By Shelley Farrington

KATAHDIN REGION – If you need a little help with meals during this time; would like a few more meals in your freezer or are hesitant to make trips the grocery store, Eastern Area Agency on Aging (EAAA) Meals on Wheels Program might be a good fit for you.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought new access and funding to numerous assistance organizations and EAAA is pleased to announce it can help more people now than ever. EAAA Director of Nutrition Tom Kenny said numbers in the MOW program are growing each week but he knows more need is out there and he wants people to reach out and take advantage of the convenience and access to meals.

“I know there are more people who need or could use the services,” Kenny said, “we have the resources to make this happen so we want people to contact us.”

The new funding has eliminated waitlist for programs, Kenny said, and eligibility requirements have been expanded during this time. He said anyone 60 years or older  who is social distancing; acting caregivers for  someone that require them to stay at home, and snowbirds returning who need to self-quarantine are all eligible for MOW.

“The point is for people to stick close to home,” Kenny said. “We can help cut down on the outside travel for someone, it’s important to limit the exposure to the public.”

 In addition, recipients can count on having to shop for one less meal per day cutting down on trips to the grocery store or food pantry and less expense for households during this time.

“And some people just like the feeling of having a few meals ready in their freezer,” Kenny added, “to have something fall back on.”

Kenny said all the meals are prepared in Bangor by Bangor Airport Food Service – a professional catering service – and brought to Stearns Assisted Living in Millinocket where EAAA has an office with a café and freezer space. The frozen meals are sorted and packed for distribution. Volunteers drive the meals to recipients once a week. He added that normal service is five meals a week but during the state of emergency meals for seven days a week are now being given.

Kenny said meals include a protein, starch and vegetables. During “normal” time there is a menu to share but during the pandemic it’s “Chef’s Choice.” Some of the meals include: Salisbury steak and potatoes, several chicken meals, meatballs and sauce, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese and seasonal foods.

He said there are special dietary menus including low sodium, diabetic friendly and comfort food. Kenny said all meals have been tested to meet nutritional guidelines by the food service – another benefit from using the professional catering service.

During this time there is no charge for those eligible thanks to the additional federal funding. When the pandemic is over, Kenny said recipients will receive a letter asking for a donation if they can.

MOWS are being delivered from Patten to the tri-town region onto Lincoln.

If you are interested in learning more or signing up Kenny said to call 1-800-432-7812 or 941-2865 and leave a message. EAAA is using the message service to better serve clients and also get them the assistance they request and can also determine if they are eligible for more services.

He added that if you are uncomfortable making the call then a family member can inquire on your behalf.

“Give us a try,” Kenny said, “you can always cancel if you don’t want the service. We want to do what you want, I like to tell people ‘you’re the boss’ tell us what you need and we’ll try to make it happen.”

Kenny said EAAA is always looking for volunteers so if anyone is interested in getting involved in the MOW program they can also call the office to get started. Drivers are paid mileage so they don’t have to worry about a financial impact.

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