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Citymeals: Where to Start
By Vik Bensen, Programs & Aging Initiatives Associate
January 15, 2020
Across the country, meals on wheels programs have touched the lives of millions of Americans. Most are familiar with the home-delivered meal program, but people often ask us where to start.
At Citymeals, we know that a nourishing meal delivered along with a friendly visit allows older New Yorkers to age with dignity in place. Often all they need, to remain in their home rather than going into assisted living, is a regular check in to ensure they are well. Our program does that and is designed to meet the needs of our neighbors, who are too old and frail to get out.
To qualify for home-delivered meals, one must be over the age of 60, live in New York City, and have difficulty shopping or cooking. The majority of our recipients have mobility issues – navigating the grocery store, carrying heavy bags or holding a pot at their kitchen stove can be too challenging.
That’s why older New Yorkers are often referred to Citymeals on Wheels by their medical providers. Recipients may get meals for many years or just temporarily while they recover at home after a hospital stay. 90-year-old Mary began getting meals while recovering from cancer surgery five years ago. Her doctor realized she had nobody to give her a helping hand once she got home. Ever since, she has looked forward to seeing Warren, her Citymeals deliverer. “He comes in all kinds of weather. He’s a wonderful young man. And the meals are delicious!”
Citymeals partners with community-based organizations and senior centers throughout the city. Each senior is matched with a case manager to get meals started, ensure they have a point of contact and evaluate them for any other social services that are helpful at this stage of life, such as SNAP or transportation assistance.
Citymeals recipients are also looked after by their meal deliverer. If the senior does not respond to a knock on the door, their Citymeals deliverer will first try to call them directly. If there’s no response, they immediately report back to meal center or case management agency, who contact the recipient’s family or other emergency contact. These deliveries are more than a meal – they serve as a regular check-in for our older neighbors to ensure they are well each day.
Often, meal deliverers are like family for the homebound elderly. 101-year-old Josephine beams when her deliverer Angie arrives. “She gives the best hugs!” says the Citymeals recipient.
Home-delivered meals are nutritious and include a protein, vegetable, fruit and whole grain or enriched bread component, as well as vitamin C-enriched juice. Menus are developed by a nutritionist provided by the New York City Department for the Aging. They work with the kitchens that prepare meals and the local programs who deliver to ensure all meals meet the nutritional standards for senior health. 89-year-old Betty says, “You need something to look forward to when your health is bad. Citymeals is that thing for me…you get a bit of everything…juice, fruit, meat, veggies!”
Citymeals offers Kosher meals throughout the city, and in certain neighborhoods, Halal meals, as well as traditional meals for Korean, Chinese, Polish and Slavic communities are available.
We know that 14% of meal recipients live on the one meal a day we deliver. For those at high risk for malnutrition, our Mobile Food Pantry provides a monthly delivery of staples like stews, soups, brown rice, whole-grain breakfast cereal and canned fruit and vegetables.
Those who receive home care are still be eligible to receive meals and there is no financial requirement for eligibility. If you or a loved one meets the criteria and is interested in enrolling, please visit our website, and enter the older person's zip code to find the closest case management agency.