‘Meals on Wings’ program expands to reach more seniors in the community

Program fills gap for seniors on Meals on Wheels wait list

VIDEO: Jennifer Ready reports on Meals on Wings.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Students at the University of North Florida are making sure homebound seniors have access to nutritious meals.

rooks College of Health is working with Baptist Medical Center and other local hospitals to recover unused food and deliver it to seniors who are eligible for Meals on Wheels but are on a waiting list. The program is called “Meals on Wings.”

“Currently in Jacksonville, we have over a thousand seniors that are waiting for a nutritious meal and because of funding they aren’t receiving those meals,” explained Dr. Lauri Wright, chair of the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at UNF.

Student volunteers visit the hospitals twice a week to recover unused food, then they package it and deliver it to seniors that same day.

“This makes all the difference in having a warm, healthy meal,” Wright said. “We always say these are more than meals, they are also safety checks.”

The program started just over a year ago. To date, it’s provided roughly 5,000 meals. In the next few weeks, it’s expanding its reach to the New Town area through a partnership with the American Heart Association.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work specific to the New Town Success Zone, and we know that food is a barrier in the area,” explained Amber Wilson, executive director of the American Heart Association. “So, we knew the importance of partnering or collaborating with UNF, this Meals on Wings program and Dr. Wright to get healthy options in their doors and in their homes to eat.”

To partner with the program, the American Heart Association secured a grant through the Jim Moran Foundation. It will fund meals for more than two dozen seniors two or three times a week over the next two years.

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