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The Impact of a Home-Delivered Meal Program on Nutritional Risk, Dietary Intake, Food Security, Loneliness, and Social Well-Being

This study, conducted by faculty and graduate students from the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health, implemented a first of its kind approach to investigating the impact of meal service delivery and volunteer visits on homebound seniors receiving Meals on Wheels. The study’s findings validate what we’ve all known for decades anecdotally through firsthand experience: that Meals on Wheels does in fact deliver so much more than just a meal. Overall this pilot study was an important first step in demonstrating the effectiveness of Meals On Wheels of Tampa on the nutritional and emotional health of our seniors.  Data was collected from January-April of 2014. Please click here for the abstract.  Full text is available in the Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics For more information please contact Lauren at Save Save

A Community-University Partnership to Improve Access to Fresh Produce among Homebound Seniors

Faculty and students from The University of South Florida and staff from Meals On Wheels of Tampa collaborated to develop and evaluate the impact of the first produce delivery program for homebound seniors in the country. Diets that are high in fruits and vegetables lower an individual’s risk of chronic disease and contribute to healthy aging. The rising senior population is at an increased risk of developing chronic disease and age related health issues such as cognitive decline and frailty. The study findings confirm that the program is effective in increasing the fruit and vegetable intake of participants. Participants averaged an increase of almost 1 serving of fruit and ½ serving of vegetables each day. Given the “5-a-day” recommendation of fruit and vegetable intake,  participants increased their intake by 30% toward the recommendation. Data was collected from January-May of 2015. Full text is available in the Florida Public Health Review Journal 2017. This study was an important first step in demonstrating the benefits of university-community partnerships in effectively increasing the fruit and vegetable intake of homebound seniors and disabled. For more information please contact Lauren at


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Even the most independent among us, if fortunate to live long enough, may experience a decline in mobility or health that can strip away our independence and diminish the quality of our lives. Great advances in medicine have extended our average life expectancy to a record high of 78.7 years. Living longer means more years spent in the struggles that accompany old age. Add to that the increase in geographic mobility of our families and the result is millions of seniors left behind, hungry and alone.

Headlines alert us to the impact of the aging of America. The “silver tsunami” or “age wave” is already here as over 10,000 Baby Boomers reach the age of 65 every single day. One quarter of today’s 65-year-olds will live past the age of 90 and will experience many of their daily chores turning into insurmountable everyday challenges. These seniors already represent the fastest growing population segment in the U.S.



While we all celebrate the increase in lifespan, maintaining health while aging comes with a price. Without support from programs like Meals on Wheels, millions of seniors are forced to prematurely trade their homes for nursing facilities. We can provide a senior Meals on Wheels for an entire year for roughly the same cost as spending one day in the hospital or ten days in a nursing home. Meals on Wheels saves us all billions of dollars in unnecessary Medicaid and Medicare expenses every year – tax dollars that can be spent in much better ways.


For millions of Americans, Meals on Wheels is literally the difference between remaining in their own homes and needing to relocate to a nursing facility. The nutritious meal, friendly visit and safety check help them cope with three of the biggest threats of aging: hunger, isolation and loss of independence. Research proves that when seniors have the right support, they gain greater quality of life, need fewer hospital stays and live longer.




Millions of American families sleep better at night and can continue their daily routines and responsibilities because they know that Meals on Wheels is keeping a watchful eye over their aging loved ones. When other competing responsibilities make it impossible or difficult for us to be there, Meals on Wheels can make sure our parents, grandparents and others important in our lives are cared for, and that someone is there to raise a red flag if something doesn’t seem just right.


Meals on Wheels of Tampa provides the ability for virtually every community member across the city to efficiently and compassionately care for their aging neighbors. At the heart of this community solution are more than one thousand volunteers who keep the wheels turning in and across Tampa. Serving up friendship and nutrition through deliveries directly to seniors’ homes, Meals on Wheels is making our community stronger, safer and more self-sufficient. That is something we can all be proud of.

I would like to thank everyone volunteering at Meals On Wheels. You have changed my life and taken me from malnourished to healthy. Your meals are wonderful and have improved my life in many ways. Thank you all for everything that you’ve done for me. I really want to give a very special thanks for the chef. You do a fine job. The cooking is mainly delicious. Today’s chicken Parmesan with spaghetti was better than ever. Thanks so much for the talent and love that you obviously put into all you do. You are most appreciated. Love to you all. With much gratitude!


Recipient, Meals On Wheels of Tampa

Joe & Muriel have lived in the same house they purchased 65 years ago. They were in the dry cleaning business and worked hard all their lives. They sold the business several years ago and settled into their retirement and the dream of traveling and enjoying the fruits of their labors. Not long after, Joe developed macular degeneration and is now legally blind. Muriel, for a while, would shop and drive him to the doctor and grocery store, but it was difficult. Joe decided he didn’t want his lovely bride figuring out a menu each day, and shopping for all the ingredients – it was difficult for her to get the groceries into the house and put away, so they became Meals On Wheels of Tampa recipients. They consider it a Godsend. Muriel lost the vision in her left eye, making it impossible for her to drive at all.   The hot, nutritious meals delivered by Meals On Wheels of Tampa have now become a necessity, without which, their health and well-being would suffer. Joe & Muriel are among the many recipients Meals On Wheels of Tampa serve daily in Tampa.

Joe & Muriel

Recipients, Meals On Wheels of Tampa

If you are not a quitter, you will be a winner in life. Every time you lose, every time you fail, every time your heart is broken, every time you are disappointed, every time your wish does not come true, every time people block your progress, every time you get knocked down by life’s unfairness, cry and feel the pain and sadness because you are human. But you must refuse to give up. Open your eyes and imagine the hands of the unseen amazing grace lifting you up! Learn from the set-backs and rise up! Get up! Stand up! And keep on trying because if you refuse to quit, you are closer to success than you ever thought possible. The seeds you have planted because of your caring nature and good heart and compassion for others will always bring unexpected blessings and open new avenues for your success. I wish you these manifestations for the hope and joy that you give to others. Your goodness inspires me with hope. Thank you!



Recipient, Meals On Wheels of Tampa

Each morning Josephine places her hand on the red crayon outline of her granddaughter’s hand next to her class picture. Scribbled across the top are the words, “I love you, Grammy!” It’s Josephine’s connection to her family. They live 500 miles away, but they are always close to her heart. Josephine is 81. She’s lived alone since her husband passed away 14 years year ago. Independent and a self-described “stubborn old woman”, she finds it difficult to ask others for help. She used to manage just fine – until the heart medications. The side effects sapped her energy and made her unsteady on her feet. Even simple tasks became difficult. Putting a meal together was nearly impossible. By the time she collected the ingredients and organized them on the counter, she was totally exhausted. Too many times she left everything there and just went without eating. Thankfully, her daughter visited from out of state and noticed what was happening. Concerned for her mother’s health, and yet respecting her desire to remain independent, she convinced her Mom to call Meals On Wheels of Tampa for help. Seven years later, Josephine is still “stubborn” and independent, but she is forever grateful for the wonderful volunteers who bring her a hot meal and a friendly smile each day. And her family – including her granddaughter – is comforted in knowing she is eating well. Meals On Wheels of Tampa serves hundreds of homebound and seniors just like Josephine everyday. All of them have an intense desire to remain living in their own home rather than to face other alternatives. Many have no family to help them. And for some, the MOW volunteers are their family. People like Josephine are why we do what we do everyday.


Recipient, Meals On Wheels of Tampa

Imagine with us for a moment. Imagine Mark, the MOW volunteer, as he turns into the gravel driveway for the final delivery on his route. Grace, his recipient, is 84 years old and lives alone. Since her stroke a year ago, she struggles to get around her simple two bedroom home with the help of a walker. Her kids have wanted her to move in with them in Chicago ever since Grace’s husband died five years ago, but this is her home. This is where her heart is. Mark has only been volunteering for a few weeks, but Grace has already become his favorite recipient. Despite her physical challenges, she has an infectious smile and an unmistakable enthusiasm for life that reminds him of his own grandma back home. Today Mark has saved her for last on his route so he could visit for a few minutes without making the other recipients wait. As Mark gets out of the car, Grace waves to him through the window as she sits in her favorite recliner in front of the TV. She’s been waiting for him. She hasn’t eaten since early last night and she’s hungry. She knows it’s Mark’s day to deliver, and she looks forward to seeing him, but given the choice between the meal and Mark, she’d take the meal every time. She needs the food. Like most days, this will be her only meal. She’ll divide it in two, eat one now, and save the other half for dinner. Mark makes his way through the overgrown yard and the worn front porch as he brings a meal of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetables, wheat bread, carrot/raisin salad and lemon pudding, all prepared a few hours earlier in the MOW kitchen. Grace calls to him to put the meal on the table so she doesn’t have to get up while, at the same time, reaching out her hand to welcome him. She hasn’t spoken with another person since about this time yesterday when the last MOW volunteer was here. They chat for a while about the food, the weather, and Grace’s two year old great granddaughter she hopes to see for the first time in the summer. Then, just as Mark prepares to leave, she grabs his hand and pulls him close as she begins to tear up. “Mark, do me a favor. You tell those people at Meals on Wheels thank you for me, will you? I don’t know what I’d do without these meals. Life is hard enough for an old lady like me since my husband passed and I had my stroke, and Lord knows my $500 a month from Social Security doesn’t go very far. These meals are a Godsend. I couldn’t get by, I couldn’t live here in my home, without them. I don’t know who pays for them or how you all do it, but you make sure to tell em thank you for me, OK? Bless you for what you do.” She nods her head and gives him that smile that touches his soul deep inside. As Mark drives away, he thinks about what she said, and how important that meal is to Grace. He admires her spirit, and her unwavering desire to remain in her home and live independently. And he says a little prayer asking God to be with her. Now, imagine Grace is your Mother.



Recipient, Meals On Wheels of Tampa

Angela is a bright, professional, strong-willed woman who shares a home with her seriously ill mother and increasingly frail grandmother in Tampa’s Forest Hills area. As their only caregiver, her days are a never-ending juggling act of medical appointments, errands, check in calls, meal preparation, keeping her business afloat, and if time permits – a mind clearing bike ride around the neighborhood. Her hectic juggling turned into anxious worrying as their health worsened and it became evident she needed some help ensuring they were comfortable and safe while she was at work. As luck would have it, a neighbor who recently began receiving Meals On Wheels, recommended the program and Angela picked up the phone. Her mother and grandmother immediately began receiving a daily visit from a caring Meals On Wheels of Tampa volunteer bringing hot, nutritious meals and welcome smiles. In return, Angela felt a tremendous sense of relief knowing that someone was bringing her loved ones a healthy meal and checking on their welfare before she could get home. Angela’s mother and grandmother are just two of the hundreds served each day by Meals On Wheels of Tampa as we fulfill our mission of “Nourishing and enriching the independent lives of the homebound and seniors.” Angela and other caregivers need Meals On Wheels of Tampa to enable their parents, grandparents, and friends to continue living in the comfort and security of their own home. Though Angela lives with her family, so many other caregivers live far away and rely on our volunteers as additional caring eyes and ears checking on their loved ones and bringing them a hot, nutritious meal.


Daughter of Recipient, Meals On Wheels of Tampa