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The Aging Commission of the Mid-South says there are more than 600 people waiting to get on the Meals on Wheels program and several have been on the list for longer than a year.
Meals on Wheels is a federally-funded program which is administered at the local level by the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association. Currently, MIFA delivers hot meals to 1,261 clients at their homes and another 968 clients receive meals at congregate sites.
MIFA President and CEO Sally Heinz points to stagnant funding for the shortfalls of not covering everyone in need. Among the other programs MIFA runs, 30% of their budget goes towards operating the meals program, Heinz said.
“It’s a relatively inexpensive thing. It costs about $9 a day to prepare and deliver a meal. I do just think it’s a shame, that we are unable as a community to meet that need,” Heinz said.
For 30 years, Lee McWaters has been a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. He sees the need in each delivery. On Friday, over his lunch break as a realtor, McWaters packs a cooler with hot meals.
“I can’t imagine living alone, older, can’t get out of the house. It’s got to be lonely. Just having someone interact with you for a minute or two every day and bringing you a warm meal, showing the love. That’s got to mean the world to them,” McWaters said.
His first stop is to the home of Bill Stovall, a former Ole Miss football player McWaters points out. Over the years, McWaters has come to know his clients well. Stovall has been with the program for more than three years.
“I was mostly the human dummy. They just took me out there to practice and beat on me,” Stovall jokes of his past life on the Ole Miss team.
It’s visits like this make the difference for Stovall. His smile shows he genuinely appreciates the time volunteers spend talking with him.
“It makes you feel like you’re not alone,” Stovall said. “So, those are the benefits above just the food, the main thing that you focus on.”
Stovall was put on disability and wasn’t able to work. His disability has left him hurting financially and he has trouble with his mobility. He explains it’s sometimes hard for him to get out of the house.
“It’s a blessing for me and I’m sure anybody else that receives it, because, like I said, it’s just me, myself and I,” Stovall said, of the program.
Heinz said the through the work of Meals on Wheels, it allows more seniors, like Stovall, to maintain their independence.
“It’s life or death and being able to stay independent and living in your home because what it would ultimately mean is that adult might have to move to a care home or assisted-living which is an enormous expense,” she said.
For Stovall, he calls Meals on Wheels his lifeline. If something were to happen to them, the volunteers would know.
“The main thing, just knowing that as one person, no family situation, that I do have contact with the outside world and having somebody to interact with,” Stovall said.
MIFA estimates that by 2035, the need in Memphis will grow by 50%.
The group is currently working on an awareness campaign to highlight the community’s need for more money and volunteers. Heinz said they hope to have it launched come the start of 2020.
Until then, donations can be made directly to MIFA, here.
Information on how to get involved can be found, here.