• Meals are provided at no cost to the consumer but contributions are a vital part of the program. Suggested contributions are $1.50 per meal or more.
• Volunteers for Meals On Wheels are needed in all 10 counties.
• For more information call 1-866-836-6678.
East Lake resident Estella Jackson has been on the waiting list for Meals On Wheels for nearly four months and has hopes of becoming one of the 220 Hamilton County residents served in the home meal delivery program.
"They have clean, decent lunches," Jackson said.
The disabled grandmother is among more than 392 people on the waiting list for Meals On Wheels in Hamilton County alone.
More than 540 seniors are on the waiting list for all 10 counties served by the Southeast Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability/Development District.
Dozens more people could be served if the agency had more volunteers to deliver food, program manager Stacie M. Smith said.
"For lots of our people this is the only meal that they have," said Smith. "They're not able to cook. They can't stand long enough to cook a meal. This is it."
Meals On Wheels provides nutritionally balanced, hot lunches to people who are at least 60 years old, have a physical disability and who are unable to prepare a meal for themselves.
The agency also supplies extra frozen meals on Fridays so that participants can have food on the weekends.
About 89 volunteers and eight paid drivers deliver food to more than 220 residents in Hamilton County.
Smith said she wants to at least double the number of volunteers in Hamilton County. If she had more volunteers, more people would be served because more money could be dedicated to purchasing meals instead of paying for food deliveries.
There is always a need for drivers but volunteers are even more in demand in the winter when drivers sometimes don't show because of bad weather, Smith said.
Drivers who work a full shift are usually on the road no longer than two hours and may make 15 to 20 stops, she said. Shifts are limited to two hours in hopes of every resident getting the food while it's still warm.
Food is delivered during lunch time five days a week. However, some of the 89 volunteers deliver only one day a week. Some deliver only once a month.
Volunteers are so important to the program, not just for the residents' nutritional health, but for their overall well-being, said Smith.
Volunteers don't just deliver a meal, they're helping in other ways, like taking out the trash and feeding the cat and dog, she said.
Most Meals On Wheels participants live alone and the volunteer may be the only person the resident sees all day, Smith said.
Jackson said she wants to be in the program and looks forward to meeting her delivery person.
"Come visit me," said the 90-year-old grandmother. "I'm old but I'm still alive."