Seattle Foundation Blog

Community Should Get Behind Meals on Wheels

Our community has a responsibility to ensuring our residents' basic needs for food are met. That's why Meals on Wheels is so critical. It's a simple idea that works, generating health, safety, economic and community benefits.

August 04, 2016

By Mary Grace Roske, Vice President, Marketing & Communications

When I read “With Funding Cut, Wait List grows for Meals on Wheels list” in Sunday’s The Seattle Times, I thought about my family’s experience with this long-standing food-delivery service that provides meals to home-bound seniors. 

For years, my parents were delivery drivers for Sound Generations' Meals on Wheels on the Eastside. In their early 60s at the time, they would pick up the bags of food each Monday morning, drive their route through Bellevue, dropping off their deliveries and visiting with the seniors.   When the final bag was delivered, they would return, bringing back the money seniors paid and their orders for the next week. 

Mom and Dad knew all of their customers by name. Their route included seniors living in wealthier neighborhoods, as well as those in subsidized housing. Nearly every recipient paid for their meals. One woman would pay extra each week, able to afford it and very grateful for the service.  For some, the Meals on Wheels delivery would be their only visit or conversation of the day.  My mom would remind herself of this when people seemed extra chatty or particularly slow to find their checkbooks.  They were appreciative of the food, but also cherished the company. For my parents, their five-year career as Meals on Wheels delivery drivers provided a shared volunteer activity and a weekly mini-road trip through the Eastside.  (Traffic was a bit lighter back then.)

According to Communities Count, food insecurity is growing in our regionIt’s also a priority of Seattle Foundation’s Healthy Community framework and our team has deep knowledge about this issue, from creative programming to address hunger to the network of providers serving our region to effective philanthropic strategies. We see great interest in this issue from the philanthropists we serve, especially now. The impacts of the economic prosperity we see in our region today can be especially challenging for seniors on a fixed income.  This problem is confounded by lack of access, mobility and household help.

Our community has a responsibility to ensuring our residents’ basic needs for food are met. That’s why Meals on Wheels is so critical. It’s a simple idea that works, generating health, safety, economic and community benefits.  What started as a compassionate idea in Philadelphia in 1954 has grown into one of the largest and most effective social movements in America, currently helping nearly 2.4 million seniors annually in virtually every community in the country. In King County, Meals on Wheels makes nearly 400,000 meals a year for home-bound seniors.

In addition to meal delivery, Meals on Wheels offers the Mobile Market, a grocery delivery service, and Community Dining at senior centers and community associations. It provides access to a broad-range of nutritionally balanced, healthy foods and is supported by private donations and a committed volunteer network of coordinators, packers office support staff and delivery drivers. 

When my father passed away, we asked that donations be made in his honor to Meals on Wheels, through Sound Generations (formerly Senior Services of King County). With growing demand on the program and a decline in funding, I wanted to make this appeal again for financial and volunteer support to meet the basic needs of food and companionship for our senior citizens.

Contact or (206) 448-5767 to volunteer. To contribute, visit Sound Generations web site.  And, if you'd like, you can make your donation in memory of my dad, John Helsper, Sr.



For Philanthropists


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