Eight Things You’d Like to Know About Meals on Wheels

United Way Meals on Wheels Team preps meals in the Cooper Green Hospital Kitchen.

Q: If I am a United Way Meals on Wheels recipient, what kind of lunch should I expect each day?

A: Meals on Wheels recipients can expect a hot, nutritious lunch time meal on weekdays. Meals are balanced and include a protein, a variety of starches, vegetables, dessert, and milk or juice. An example of a meal participants receive is chicken supreme with whipped sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, a wheat roll, cranberry sauce, a fudge round for dessert, milk and cranberry juice.


Q: What are the food guidelines?

A: Food served to Meals on Wheels recipients meets 33 1/3% of the daily nutritional value.  Since participants receive one meal each day, each meal represents one third of what their total nutritional consumption should be. (i.e. 33 1/3 x 3 meals = 100% of the daily nutritional value)


Q: Who determines the menu for each day?

A: Menus are planned in advanced by Alabama Department of Senior Services, include input from a registered dietitian, and are sent to each Area Agency on Aging quarterly.


Q: Who prepares the food?

A: Meals are delivered to the Meals on Wheels kitchen and to Senior Centers to be prepped and scooped into containers for delivery. Although the meals are not cooked at the MOW kitchen and Senior Centers, our team is responsible for scooping the food into a variety containers, loading the food for each route into coolers and special containers called Cambros that help keep hot food hot, and getting the food onto the correct vehicle for delivery. This is a detailed process that is governed both by the Health Department and by the regulatory requirements of the Alabama Elderly Nutrition Program.


Q: How does it get from the prep site to the home of the actual recipient?

A: Once meals are prepped and ready to go, the MOW team loads them into the MOW vehicles and takes them to drop sites and well as delivering door to door all across Jefferson County. Food is also delivered from 20 Senior Centers directly to Meals on Wheels clients.


Q: What are some of the specific challenges related to delivery of the meals?

A: The primary challenges related to delivering meals are keeping the food within temperature parameters and volunteer coverage for nearly 60 routes expanding across Jefferson County. If food is not kept within the specified temperature range, it cannot be served. Because food must also be served within 2 hours of being scooped, it is easy to see how critical volunteer coverage becomes. 


Q: What happens if someone complains about temperature, food choices or taste?

A: General food concerns based on preferences are noted and reported on a weekly basis to Alabama Department of Senior Services, who uses the information to make future decisions regarding menu items and even how food is prepared. Food safety issues are reported to the Nutrition Coordinator, who addresses the concerns as appropriate.


Q: Is there a consensus on least and most favorite foods?

A: Just like most of us, seniors love hamburger day! They also really enjoy days when jello is served.


Meals on Wheels has been serving homebound seniors throughout Jefferson County since 1976, and currently provides more than 250,000 meals each year. The program is administered by United Way of Central Alabama in partnership with the Jefferson County Office of Senior Citizen Services.