For 41 years, Mobile Meals, Inc. has served nutritious, affordable meals to people of all ages who are at nutritional risk. Of all ages doesn’t just mean seniors, although seniors are a large percentage of those Mobile Meals serves.
“The people we help draw us to doing more,” said Lorie Travaglino, president and CEO of Mobile Meals, Inc.
Helping old and young
According to the website, Mobile Meals serves seven counties, and the agency has more than 108 staff members and 200 volunteers. More than 3,500 meals and supplements are provided each day to people in their homes and at dining centers.
One program the agency provides is Grocery Getters, which is for those unable to shop. For a small fee, clients create a grocery list and give an up-front payment to a volunteer to purchase food and deliver the items to the home.
Mobile Meals also works with young and old people who have dietary restrictions, who are in need of nutrition counseling, or who have any other special requirements for meals. The agency hosts nutrition education programs and delivers nutritional supplements.
“We employ two dietitians that create healthy meals for the clients and assist with their nutritional needs,” Travaglino said. “We are always looking for a service we can provide that will be helpful. We also work with other agencies to give clients as many resources as possible.”
Certain criteria need to be met to obtain meals from the agency. Interviews are conducted by staff members to determine eligibility and meals include breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Meals are not free, but there are options for clients, such as private or government programs, to assist in payment. Meals are delivered at set times and monthly invoices are mailed to the clients.
“Our first day 41 years ago, we served two meals,” Travaglino said. “In 2011, we served more than 875,000 meals and nutritional supplements.”
Filling the gaps
Despite the seemingly large number of meals served, clients have lessened due to federal budget cuts that changed the regulations for obtaining aid. The support from foundations and the community have been vital to providing clients with affordable, healthy meals.
“We have people who can afford the meals because their income is low enough to receive financial assistance from various government and non-government programs, but for the people somewhere in the middle, this is more difficult. We help fill that gap,” Travaglino said. “There are some clients who appreciate the services we provide who aren’t eligible for any type of aid, but they still purchase.”
Fostering collaboration between agencies, increasing community donors and targeting those who are at greatest nutritional risk are short-term goals for the agency that will help move Mobile Meals forward.
One important group supporting Mobile Meals, is the Summit County Medical Alliance, which is composed of spouses of local doctors. It has supported the agency since 1941 by delivering meals, serving on boards and contributing funds. They have given nearly $1.3 million to Mobile Meals.
Baby Boomers booming
Travaglino said the number of clients affected by cuts is significant, but even more so is the number of senior citizens needing meals.
“In five years, there will be a large influx of baby boomers needing our help,” she added. “The amount is enough to get your attention.”
Mobile Meals is a member of Meals on Wheels Association of America, and the website provides some statistics gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kaiser Family Foundation, The Urban Institutes Retirement Project, U.S. Congressional Budget Office, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Census Bureau:
- 1 in 8 Americans is over the age of 65
- 1 in 4 will have difficulty completing at least 1 basic activity of daily living
- 1 in 3: odds that an American over age 65 will be injured in a fall this year
- 15 percent suffer from depression·
- 7.5 million seniors are facing the threat of hunger
Mobile Meals is working on these statistics, as the agency not only provides food but also comfort and security to individuals. Young groups of volunteers are recruited to create an intergenerational relationship that benefits both parties, while workers and volunteers help senior citizens who might feel isolated.
“I met with a woman who has no family left,” said Travaglino. “Because she receives meals and a driver who checks on her to make sure she hasn’t fallen, she can continue to live in the house her husband built for her.”
And despite her management responsibilities, Travaglino tries to go out once a month as well, in order to connect with clients.
“I wish it were more, but when I go to visit the homes, I listen to their whole stories and learn their histories,” she said. “The stories are amazing. We lose so much history because we don’t stop to say, ‘Hey, tell me what it was like 30 years ago.'”
For her, making the time to meet with clients lets her know if she’s doing her job well or not. “They inspire me and remind me of the mission,” she said.
For more information regarding Mobile Meals, Inc., visit the website.