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March 26, 2013 > Food, glorious food: Meals on Wheels

Food, glorious food: Meals on Wheels

Facing the prospect of a day without a well prepared, nutritious meal and limited ability to leave your residence to get it isn't a pleasant thought. Many, especially elderly and disabled, face that prospect daily without fanfare. However, a stalwart group of volunteers of all ages, part of a national movement to alleviate the problem, wait every weekday morning in the parking lot behind Fremont City Hall for the Meals on Wheels truck that brings prepackaged meals from a central kitchen in Livermore.

To underscore the importance of this program, Tri-City Mayors, Bill Harrison (Fremont), Al Nagy (Newark) and Carol Dutra-Vernaci (Union City) along with Fremont Councilmembers Sue Chan and Vinnie Bacon joined volunteers including past councilmember and LifeEldercare Board President Judy Zlatnik on Wednesday, March 20 to deliver hot, nourishing meals.

The Tri-City effort began in 1975 when Virginia Carlson of Fremont recognized the need for nutritional meals to the area's elderly and founded LIFE Eldercare. During its first year, the program delivered about 300 meals to the homebound elderly in the Tri-City Area. Almost 40 years later, Meals on Wheels of LIFE Eldercare has grown, now depending on approximately 60 volunteer drivers who cover 24 separate routes in Fremont, Newark and Union City. Each day, new recipients are added and the list continues to grow.

The most common misconception about Meals on Wheels is that it is a federally subsidized, free program. It is not. Life ElderCare Executive Director Patricia Osage says that Meals on Wheels is supported by volunteers, donations and grants, and contributions from recipients who pay on a sliding scale, based upon income level. Cost of the food is $3.50 but, even with volunteer drivers, the real cost considering transportation and overhead, is actually $7 per meal.

LIFE Eldercare Outreach Coordinator Tammy Duran adds that both companies and individuals are welcome to join the ranks of volunteer drivers for Meals on Wheels. Volunteer drivers may commit to a few hours each month, each week or more often, depending on their schedule; some individuals and companies share route responsibilities between several drivers. As with any organization dependent on daily attendance, emergencies can create difficult vacancies; assistance and sponsorship is always welcome. She notes that a $100 donation to Meals on Wheels is the equivalent of 30 meals, about a month of sustenance for a recipient.

Although Meals on Wheels recipients receive a bill, if for some reason the person cannot pay the total, the remainder is found somewhere. This "somewhere" might be from a shrinking pool of federal and state funding or vital local donations.

LIFE ElderCare helps frail, homebound seniors in the Tri-City area through four services: Meals on Wheels, Friendly Visitors, VIP Rides and Falls Prevention. If you are interested in donating or becoming a volunteer, please visit www.lifeeldercare.org or call (510) 574-2090.

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