Giving seniors a hand

By on March 25, 2009

by Gwen Allen
Seniors looking for a little boost, especially in today’s economy, will find not only a warm, nutritious meal, but also a helping hand from one of the country’s oldest organizations.

The Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) works toward the social, physical, nutritional and economic betterment of senior citizens.

According to the MOWAA, of seniors 60 years and older in America there are more than 5 million that are experiencing some form of food insecurity (i.e., were marginally food insecure). Of these, about 2.5 million are at-risk of hunger and about 750,000 suffer from hunger due to financial constraints.

Seniors in Kane and surrounding counties who cannot shop or prepare food for themselves can get assistance from Meals on Wheels through the Salvation Army Golden Diners. Barbara Liden, community liaison and volunteer coordinator, said seniors in need are provided with one well-balanced meal a day through the program.

Though each meal costs roughly $8 to prepare, she said donations through the Salvation Army and the United Way allow the Golden Diners (Meals on Wheels) program to provide seniors with meals at minimal cost to the recipients.

“We ask for a donation of $3.50 a meal, but we don’t turn anyone away if they cannot pay, and there is no income criteria,” Liden said. “I once had a woman ask me to stop her meals because she couldn’t afford them anymore, and I said, ‘Oh no we don’t want you to stop them, we want you eating,’ so we continued to send them.”

She said situations like this are common and that most seniors would rather starve than become a burden.

“There is a lot of pride in seniors; they will try to drop it (meals on wheels) if they don’t have the money, but we work to discourage that,” Liden said. “It’s sad, but a lot of them just wouldn’t eat (without assistance).”

The Salvation Army Golden Diners serves Kane and McHenry counties, where at least 20 to 25 percent of those accepting help are at or below poverty, through home delivery and congregate sites.

“I would estimate that we now deliver around 1,000 meals a day, and there are between 600 to 700 home deliveries,” Liden said. “We do this with the help of over 300 volunteers.”

She said the meals are government regulated to fit dietary requirements, include either 2-percent milk or juice and are low fat, low cholesterol and have no salt added. Diabetics are offered a fruit substitute for dessert.

For seniors who accept home delivery, she said there is an added benefit.

“We also do a well-being check when we deliver the food,” Liden said. “We make sure they come to the door and look OK. If a second day passes with no answer and they do not call in, then we call in Senior Services to check on them.”

Excluding the Yorkville and McHenry location, she said the congregate sites require a call-ahead reservation, but that there is plenty of room in most locations due to a rise in home deliveries.

Despite this, she said there are plans to add a restaurant location (to be determined) in the Aurora area in the near future.

Seniors seeking more information can contact The Salvation Army Golden Diners in Geneva at (630) 232-6676.

Photo: Volunteers Anna Jackson and Fred Hendershot (above) prepare meals for seniors in Kane County. They are volunteering at the Salvation Army headquarters in St. Charles. The Salvation Army Golden Diners serves Kane and McHenry diners. Photo by John DiDonna

Salvation Army
Golden Diner locations

San Pablo Lutheran Church
555 E. Benton St.
(630) 820-3450
Riverain Point Apartments
200 N. Island Ave.
(630) 879-1790
Geneva (deli)
400 Wheeler Drive
(630) 232-3692
St. Charles
Salvation Army Corps
1710 S. 7th Ave.
(630) 377-2769
Salvation Army Corps
316 Douglas Ave.
(847) 742-5749
Bill’s Restaurant
Union and Montgomery Road
Yorkville (deli)
Kendall Country Senior Center
908 Game Farm Road
(630) 553-9971

Source: Senior Services
Aurora (630) 897-4035