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Spotlight: Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

March is National Nutrition Month! We’ve covered food pantries and other food-related resources on the blog before, but what if you’re an older adult who cannot leave your home or have access to the appliances needed to cook meals? Thankfully, Washtenaw County is covered by a number of Meals on Wheels programs. Recently we spoke with Haley Bank, social worker for Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels.  

AOTC: If you had to give an “elevator speech” about what your organization does, how would you describe it? 

Haley Bank: Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels seeks to reduce hunger and food insecurity for those who are homebound and unable to shop and prepare complete nutritious meals for themselves due to their health. We do this through the provision of healthy, prepared meals that are delivered to clients in their homes along with other wraparound services that protect the quality of life for the individuals we serve and support them as they age in place. 

AOTC: Walk me through the step-by-step process. What happens when you get a phone call/referral? 

HB: When someone calls to inquire about home delivered meal services or sends in a completed referral form, the first thing that we do is check and make sure that the potential client lives within our service area. Next, we complete a brief intake with or on behalf of the potential client in order to gather some demographic information and help to determine eligibility for the program. Once this has been completed, the potential client will be scheduled for an assessment with one of our social workers. This takes about 45 minutes over the phone to complete (these will take place in the client’s home once it is safe to do so).

Once the assessment has been completed, a form is faxed to the client’s medical provider to verify the health-related factors that impact the individual’s homebound status. Once it has been determined that the client is eligible to receive meals, the client will be set up on a delivery route and contacted to determine an official start date for their home delivered meal services. 

If it is determined that a client resides outside of our service area, they will be referred to the appropriate home delivered meal program based on where they reside. Additionally, if a client doesn’t meet our eligibility criteria, they will be referred to other food resources that may be a more appropriate fit. 

AOTC: What organizations do you work closely with? 

HB: With regards to our meals, we work very closely with the Patient Food and Nutrition Services team at Michigan Medicine hospital as they prepare the majority of our meals and help ensure that the meals we serve are fresh and healthy for our clients, as well as Lucky Kitchen who provides an additional meal option for our clients. We also work closely with the Housing Bureau for Seniors at Michigan Medicine and many other community organizations to provide comprehensive services and support for those in our community who are homebound. 

AOTC: What are some things you wish the public knew about your role? 

HB: Logistically, it usually takes about two weeks for eligible clients to complete our full intake process and begin receiving meals, so we encourage folks to take that time frame into consideration while determining when to reach out for services, if possible. If someone is inpatient in the hospital or a nursing/rehab facility, it is best to call and initiate services before they are discharged so that services can begin as soon as possible once they return home. 

AOTC: What tips do you have for someone with a loved one that needs assistance? 

HB: If someone has a loved one who they feel could benefit from receiving home delivered meal services, they can encourage the client to call us to ask questions about the program or complete an intake. They can also call and inquire about services on their loved one’s behalf and assist them with completing the intake and/or assessment. 

AOTC: Is there anything you would like to add? 

HB: We all can play a part in supporting our neighbors. For some people, this may look like being a Meals on Wheels volunteer, but it can also look like checking in on your neighbors and spending time talking together. The value and impact of human connection and feeling like a part of a community can make a significant impact on quality of life for people of all ages. 

Thank you to Haley for sharing information about this valuable community program! For more information about Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels, visit their website. Visit the Ahead of the Curve Resource Directory for information about food assistance, including home-delivered meals.  

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