SCARBOROUGH — When seniors receive Meals on Wheels, they are getting a delicious meal and much more.

With health care costs soaring, Meals on Wheels can help people stay healthier, decrease health care costs and improve the quality of life for seniors who need nutritional support for the short or long term.

Research from Meals on Wheels America shows that 83 percent of Meals on Wheels recipients say their health is improved because of Meals on Wheels. But perhaps the most revealing fact is that the cost to provide one year of Meals on Wheels is less than one day in the hospital.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging has been delivering Meals on Wheels in Cumberland and York counties for more than four decades. Despite our best efforts, myths about the program have continued to confuse deserving people and deter them from considering this valuable nutritional and social resource to restore and maintain their health.


• Meals on Wheels are only for low-income seniors. In fact, anyone 60 or older who is primarily homebound, unable to prepare nutritious meals regularly and is able to accept meals at the midday delivery time is eligible.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging conducts an in-home nutritional assessment within the first nine business days of enrollment. Meals are delivered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There is no income test.

Meals are also available for caregivers over 60 who are limited in their ability to prepare meals during a time of their loved one’s recovery.

• Meals on Wheels are basic, bland nutrition. Actually, the meals are tasty and designed to meet one-third of the Federal Dietary Reference Intake for a healthy diet.

The meals are prepared in a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified kitchen and can be ordered to accommodate personal dietary preferences such as low-sodium, gluten-free and vegetarian. Special meals for people undergoing dialysis are also available.

The menu varies but always includes a protein-based entrée, a carbohydrate side dish and a vegetable. Clients can opt to receive a quart of milk weekly. The meals arrive frozen but are easily prepared.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging’s Meals on Wheels clients are surveyed regularly, and 88 percent rated the meal quality as good or great in the most recent survey.


• Meals on Wheels can help in the short term. Many clients sign up for Meals on Wheels after surgery like joint replacement or illness like pneumonia limits their activity. They may only need a few weeks of meals to help with the recovery process. Research shows that good nutrition following a period of illness or surgery greatly improves recovery time.

One of our clients contacted Meals on Wheels after a hospital stay for treatment of an aggressive cancer. She had little or no appetite and lived alone. Her weight had plummeted to less than 100 pounds. She started receiving Meals on Wheels and soon began to gain weight.

Her outlook improved, as did her energy and strength. She received Meals on Wheels for two years and when she got a clean bill of health, she opted to stop receiving the meals. She had gained 16 pounds and decided her mission was to give back to the program that gave her a second chance at a full life. Now in her 80s, she knits hats for other Meals on Wheels clients and for hospitalized children.

• Perhaps the best part of the Meals on Wheels program is the regular visit for the recipient. Our volunteers or staff deliver a smile and a bit of conversation with each knock on the door.

This brief encounter helps minimize the social isolation that results as hearing, vision, strength and memory fade. A quick check-in offers peace of mind to family caregivers, nearby or far away, because they know that their loved one is not alone.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging is lucky to have the support of over 130 volunteers. Some serve as drivers and runners to make the deliveries. Our Warming Crew volunteers help the clients who need help with heating their meals. Our Phone Pals make calls to our clients to check in with them on nondelivery days.

According to the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, 17 percent of Maine seniors experience food insecurity. Chances are you know someone over 60 and homebound who could benefit from regular nutritious meals delivered to their home. Contact the Southern Maine Agency on Aging at (207) 396-6500 or at and help them improve their quality of life.