GIFFORD – The Indian River County Meals on Wheels program has gotten a nod from county leaders for more than $21,000 to purchase a heated and refrigerated truck to serve hot meals and cold milk to residents of Gifford. Now, they are waiting to hear from the United Way board.
“It’s a pretty for sure thing,” Senior Resource Association Executive Director Karen Deigl said of the United Way grant. “But it’s not a done deal.”
On Tuesday, the board of directors is expected to take up a matching grant request from the Senior Resource Association for a retrofitted Chevy Silverado that the Meals on Wheels program would use.
Meals on Wheels currently serves 34 hot meals in Gifford to seniors and the homebound. If the program does not get a truck, that number could be cut by almost half, with 15 clients receiving frozen meals instead.
“There’s quite a difference” in nutritional value between the hot and frozen meals, according to Deigl. She added that it is critical to provide nutritious meals to the Gifford clients and explained in a letter to the Board of County Commissioners that Gifford seniors have a high incidence of diabetes and hypertension.
Along with providing meals, the Meals on Wheels program serves as a link between the clients and the outside world.
“For many of these seniors, the Meals on Wheels driver is the only person they see or speak to each day,” Deigl wrote to the commissioners when requesting matching funds for the vehicle.
She added in her letter that the food is highly regulated for safety and as such the temperatures must be maintained at the appropriate levels. Currently, the program cannot expand to include any more clients because the Meals on Wheels volunteers cannot guarantee the safety of the food if they added any more stops to the Gifford route.
If they had the specialized vehicle, they could add more Gifford clients and even extend the route into Wabasso, which is only marginally served, Deigl said.
Meals on Wheels serves 240 meals daily Monday through Friday throughout the entire county and provides 150 congregate meals – those served at a site and clients come to.
Michelle Malyn, director of gift planning at the United Way, explained that the grant the Senior Resource Association is applying for would be paid through the United Way Foundation, which financially assists with such purchases for partner programs – such as Meals on Wheels – and non-profits.
Malyn said she expects a definitive answer from the United Way board Tuesday afternoon on the funding of the grant.
Gifford Meals on Wheels at a glance
Meals served: 34
Live alone: 25