The new bags are lighter and easier for volunteers to carry than the bulky, heavy plastic delivery containers that the agency has used for over 10 years to transport hot meals. The new containers can carry hot or frozen meals, providing flexibility in the delivery process. Custom-made to the agency’s specifications, the bags can hold the same number of meal trays at 20% of the cost of the former containers. They have a divider to separate two tray stacks, mesh pockets to hold hot packs or ice packs, Velcro fasteners, clear plastic windows on both ends of the bags to insert route name signs, and the agency’s logo and contact information on the top.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the Meals on Wheels program has shifted from daily delivery of hot meals to weekly deliver of frozen meals to its clients. This has minimized the exposure of this fragile population that is most vulnerable to the virus. It also has made it easier for the Council on Aging to grow the service, adding four new routes with additional capacity for 48 people. The wait list, which had been over 100 people, is currently just under 60 people.
While a daily hot meal delivery remains the best service for many homebound older adults, the agency has found that many clients prefer the flexibility of the weekly frozen meals. As the Council on Aging plans for the future, a combination of hot and frozen meal delivery will likely be the solution.
Executive director Keith Logan stated, “We are grateful to the WNC Bridge Foundation for this grant. The new delivery bags provide a lighter, more flexible solution with equal or better temperature control than our old containers. The cheaper price allows us to acquire significantly more containers to support the tremendous growth that the service has seen over the past few years.”
The Council on Aging has donated its former containers to Transylvania and Polk County Meals on Wheels programs.