Residents who receive Meals on Wheels often enjoy the chance to socialize when the delivery is made.
On Thursday, it’s quite possible they got to talk politics.
Local politicians went along for the ride as part of the annual March for Meals campaign.
The mayors of Orillia, Oro-Medonte, Ramara and Severn, as well as Simcoe County Warden Gerry Marshall, gathered at Bayside Restaurant, where they spoke about the importance of the program before hitting the road to make deliveries to clients.
“It is important, and it is going to become more of a necessity,” said Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke.
Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes said Meals on Wheels, provided locally by Helping Hands, offers “not only food for the body, but food for the soul as well,” as they enjoy the company.
Helping Hands CEO Rob Soczka stressed the importance of the social aspect of the program.
“For a lot of (clients), this is the highlight of their week — having that interaction,” he said. “A lot of these clients are shut-ins and might not have support from family and friends.”
It’s about more than a simple chat, too. If the person making the delivery notices the client isn’t doing well, the client could be referred to other programs offered by Helping Hands.
Meals on Wheels, however, is among the agency’s most in-demand services. That doesn’t surprise Marshall, who noted about 12 per cent of county residents go without food once a year, and 20 per cent go without it multiple times.
Helping Hands’ mandate includes providing clients with resources to maintain their independence for as long as possible, “and nutrition is a big part of that,” Soczka said.
March for Meals, formerly known as Mayors for Meals, has been going on for a number of years, and Soczka appreciates the involvement of local municipal leaders.
“They generally understand the importance (of Meals on Wheels),” he said, “and it’s important for them to show their support and commitment to our communities.”
Helping Hands has a contract with Bayside Restaurant to provide hot meals, which are delivered three times a week, while the frozen meals are provided by Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital and Barrie’s Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.
Provincially, Meals on Wheels provided 2,899,292 meals in 2015-16 to more than 38,800 Ontarians. Government funding for the program is provided to 137 not-for-profit organizations, but that money doesn’t cover all of the costs, so volunteers are vital. Soczka noted Meals on Wheels in this area is almost entirely volunteer driven.