Senior meal program hits a milestone in Sacramento

06/28/2012 12:00 AM

06/27/2012 11:40 PM

Because of painful spinal deterioration, 88-year-old Lois Clark can't stand up long enough to cook dinner for herself. Five mornings a week, volunteers from Meals on Wheels by ACC deliver her main meal of the day, which Clark refrigerates until later, then zaps in a microwave to reheat.

"It's always something good," said Clark, a widow and retired missionary who lives in the Fruitridge area.

More than that, the volunteers check to make sure Clark is up and feeling alert.

"Usually, she's ready for me, standing at the door when I arrive," said Bonnye Whamond, the volunteer who delivers Clark's meals each Wednesday. "Occasionally, she's in the back doing laundry. You have to be prepared to wait. Some of our folks can't move fast."

This week, the senior nutrition program hits a milestone: It will serve its 1 millionth meal since July 2010, when Sacramento County ceded the Meals on Wheels program to the Asian Community Center, a longtime provider of a range of programs for the county's elderly.

Meals on Wheels by ACC is a separate nonprofit set up by the Asian Community Center specifically to run the $4.5 million meals program, which is funded by the Area 4 Agency on Aging and the federal Community Development Block Grant program, as well as private donations.

The point of Meals on Wheels – which served its first Sacramento seniors in 1975 – is to provide nutritional support for people 60 and older so they can continue living in their own homes. A network of 5,000 similar programs serves seniors across the country.

Through its home delivery program as well as lunchtime cafes operated at 22 locations across the county, ranging from seniors centers to churches, Meals on Wheels by ACC serves meals to 5,660 older adults each week.

Another All Seasons Cafe lunch site opens this week at Eskaton Jefferson Manor off Florin Road, program officials said.

Clark is one of about 140 frail seniors in Sacramento County who receive hot meal deliveries each weekday, said Meals on Wheels by ACC volunteer director David Morikawa. Another 1,000 receive weekly deliveries of a frozen five-pack of meals.

"It gives them the opportunity to decide more for themselves when to eat," he said. "But the other side is, they don't get daily contact."

Each meal provides one-third of older adults' daily nutritional requirements.

On Wednesday, Whamond delivered to the seven clients on her Fruitridge route a meal of chicken fried rice with a side of stir-fried veggies, along with milk and cranberry juice.

One of her earlier customers didn't answer the door, she said, so she alerted the Meals on Wheels by ACC staff.

"There may be a need to send somebody to the house," she said. "Or maybe they went out to a doctor's appointment. But it can be serious."

Clark has been a recipient of the home-delivered meals since 2006, when she was caring for her husband before he died of leukemia.

"Bonnye always comes with a smile on her face," said Clark. "It's encouraging. I always look forward to the volunteers coming by. They're always so upbeat."

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