While Meals on Wheels has not historically gotten involved in responding to local emergency situations, times change so we have as well.
“The heart of our organization is providing meals to those who need food, care and compassion," says Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. "That is exactly what these situations call for. Since we have the infrastructure, the knowledge and the heart to help during these tragedies, it would be irresponsible for us to not get involved. Along with our partners, we’re uniquely positioned to help seniors and others in the area during their time of great need."
SUMMER CRISIS PROGRAM
We partner with the Ohio Department of Development to help income-eligible Ohioans stay cool during the hot summer months. The Home Energy Assistance Summer Crisis Program provides eligible Ohioans assistance paying an electric bill or assistance paying for central air conditioning repairs.
WINTER WEATHER EMERGENCY BOXES
Winter weather can hit all of us hard, but it’s especially harsh – and in some cases dangerous – on our older neighbors. Snow, ice and the bitter cold can trap them inside their homes, making them even more vulnerable to the challenges of hunger and isolation. Many spend the entire season behind closed doors.
That’s why we utilize the generous time of our volunteers to assemble Emergency Food Boxes each fall in anticipation of winter’s wrath. Each box has enough shelf-stable food for two days. In 2022, in addition to the two-day boxes, we also packed 14-day boxes that are being distributed to rural, harder-to-reach areas in Northern Kentucky that often take longer to recover from bad weather.
Each box contains food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, including staples like cereal, spaghetti and lasagna, canned tuna and chicken, fruit cups, applesauce, vegetables, peanut butter crackers, cookies, applesauce, apple juice and chocolate milk, as well as special treats like brownies.
These emergency boxes are a lifeline for our isolated older neighbors during the winter months, offering comfort and security in an uncertain time.
Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky sent 1,000 individually packaged, shelf-stable meals to Western Kentucky in an effort to support seniors and families dealing with the aftermath of the deadly December 2021 tornadoes. More than 60 volunteers spent three days assembling the food boxes, which were shipped to the Christian County Senior Center in Dawson Springs, Ky., by Moves that Matter, the charitable arm of Cincinnati-based logistics provider TQL. The boxes are being distributed to seniors over the course of several weeks as clean-up crews and disaster relief agencies continue to work through the recovery and restoration process, which is expected to take several months.
More than 1,000 families were left homeless or had their properties severely damaged as part of the disaster, which saw tornadoes tear a 200-mile path through the state. Residents in the area struggled without electricity, some living in shelters for extended periods, which is why shelf-stable meals are so vital to the process.
“As we watched the videos and saw the photos, our hearts went out to everyone in Western Kentucky, and we thought about the seniors having to navigate shelters, hunger and the cold,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. “Our immediate thought was, ‘How can we help?’
“The heart of our organization is providing meals to those who need food, care and compassion. We have the infrastructure, the knowledge and the heart to help during this tragedy and we’re uniquely positioned to help seniors and others in the area alongside our partners.”
Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky provides roughly 1.4 million meals to seniors across a 12-county region, including eight counties in Kentucky. It is one of the largest Meals on Wheels organizations in the United States.
“We reached out to our partners at the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, and they put us in touch with their counterparts in Western Kentucky,” said Steele. “Their senior nutrition site was destroyed. They still don’t have electricity in the area, so our shelf-stable boxes are ideal. They’re individually packaged, complete meals that require no heating or refrigeration.”
The meals provided a week’s worth of food, including canned dinners such as spaghetti, lasagna and chili, lunch meat such as tuna and chicken, Kellogg's Jump Start breakfast kits, desserts such as brownies and cookies, as well as cheese crackers, Cheez-Its, potato chips and other snacks, juice boxes and more.
The American Red Cross Greater Cincinnati Tri-State Chapter helped to connect with volunteers on the ground for distribution.
“Food is the most basic of human needs,” said Steele. “Providing a meal to someone in need, or in the midst of a tragedy or disaster, provides more than just the physical sustenance that they need to endure the stress and physical demands of the aftermath. It’s a way to reach out to another person, to show that someone cares, and to give them hope. We’re so thankful that we’re able to respond, with the help of our volunteers and partners.”