A Few Things You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Meals on Wheels

Q: If I am a United Way Meals on Wheels (MOW) recipient, what kind of lunch should I expect each day?
A: Meals on Wheels recipients can expect a hot, nutritious lunch-time meal on weekdays. Meals are balanced and include a protein, a variety of starches, vegetables, dessert, and milk or juice. An example would be chicken supreme with whipped sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, a wheat roll, cranberry sauce, a fudge round for dessert, milk and cranberry juice.

Q: What are the food guidelines?
A: Food served to Meals on Wheels recipients meets 33-1/3% of the recommended daily nutritional value. Since participants receive one meal each day, each meal represents one third of what their total nutritional consumption should be (i.e. 33-1/3 x 3 meals = 100% of the daily nutritional value).

Q: Who determines the menu for each day? 
A: Menus are planned in advanced by the Alabama Department of Senior Services with input from a registered dietician, and are sent to each Area Agency on Aging quarterly.

Q: Who prepares the food?
A: Meals are delivered to the Meals on Wheels kitchen and to Senior Centers to be prepped for delivery. Although the meals are not cooked at the MOW kitchen and Senior Centers, our team is responsible for dividing the food into portions in a variety containers, loading the food for each route into coolers and special containers called Cambros that help keep hot food hot and getting the food onto the correct vehicle for delivery. This is a detailed process that is governed both by the Health Department and by the regulatory requirements of the Alabama Elderly Nutrition Program.

Q: How does it get from the prep site to the home of the actual recipient?
A: Once meals are prepped and ready to go, the Meals on Wheels team loads them into the MOW vehicles, takes them to drop sites and makes door-to-door deliveries all across Jefferson County. Food is also delivered from 20 Senior Centers directly to Meals on Wheels clients.

Q: What are some of the specific challenges related to delivery of the meals?
A: The primary challenges related to delivering meals are (1) keeping the food within the required temperature parameters and (2) ensuring that we have enough volunteers to cover nearly 60 routes stretching across Jefferson County. If food is not kept within the specified temperature range, it cannot be served. And because food must also be served within two hours of being prepped for delivery, it’s easy to see how critical sufficient volunteer coverage is.

Q: What happens if someone complains about temperature, food choices or taste?
A: General food concerns based on preferences are noted and reported on a weekly basis to the Alabama Department of Senior Services, which uses that information to make future decisions regarding menu items and even how food is prepared. Food-safety issues are reported to the Nutrition Coordinator, who addresses the concerns as needed.

Q: Is there a consensus on least and most favorite foods? 
A: Just like most of us, seniors love hamburger day! They also really enjoy days when Jello is served.