Shelter-in-place/Stay-at-home orders designed to keep high-risk residents safe amid the pandemic have created a rapid increase in the number of seniors who rely on home-delivered meals as their primary source of food. This, coupled with supply chain and workforce disruptions, makes delivering large quantities of meals to a growing number of Older Adults more expensive for Age Well than ever before.
“Age Well is experiencing unprecedented change as a result of COVID-19. We are busier than ever as we continue to offer the same high quality services to our clients in all four counties that we serve. We must ensure that our most vulnerable populations are well cared for as we continue to focus on our mission”, said Jane Catton, CEO of Age Well.
A new survey conducted by Meals on Wheels America finds that nearly all local Meals on Wheels programs across the United States are experiencing increased demand since concerns over COVID-19 and social distancing measures began taking hold.
Nationally, programs reported substantive shifts in their operations in April, compared to the week prior to March 1:
- Across the United States, 89 percent of programs have seen an increase in meal requests; of those, 79 percent report the number of new requests for meals has at least doubled.
- As the largest provider of Meals on Wheels in Vermont, Age Well Delivers Meals on Wheels to over 1,200 older adults who are food insecure and at risk for Social Isolation.
- Age Well’s most recent data showed that 59 percent of new Meals on Wheels clients scored highest risk for food insecurity.
- All 1,200 clients receiving services scored a Six or higher on the Nutrition Risk Assessment (national tool measuring Malnutrition risk) as High Risk for Malnutrition.
- Aside from funding the additional costs for increased meals, 63 percent of national programs report that acquiring safety supplies (gloves, masks, etc.) is the biggest challenge and unexpected expense. Age Well is experiencing these same trends.
“There is no debate that older Americans have borne the brunt of this pandemic, and if we only examine infection, hospitalization and death rates, we vastly underestimate the true impact,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO, Meals on Wheels America. “This survey data offers critical insights into the level of support necessary now and beyond the pandemic, to ensure we meet the needs of our most vulnerable populations.”
“Sheltering at home is keeping seniors safe, but we must also strengthen and protect the support systems that enable them to do that, such as nutrition services and programs that reduce isolation,” said Hollander. “We can’t do one without the other”
As discussions over how and when to end stay-at-home orders ensue, Age Well expects demand to continue to increase.
“Our top priority in each of our communities in Vermont is to keep our most vulnerable populations safe, through the Stay Home, Stay Safe order”, said Catton. “Yet, with this comes numerous other challenges, including managing increasing social isolation and providing the much needed social supports for our clients. Age Well’s span of services, including our Care Management, Volunteer and Meals on Wheels programs have risen to this challenge during this COVID-19 event. We couldn’t do what we do without our dedicated teams, community partners and donors helping us every step of the way.”
Visit Agewellvt.org to learn how to support Age Well’s efforts to meet the growing demand for Meals on Wheels during this unprecedented time.