OTTUMWA — Every day seniors wait for a warm meal and a friendly smile to show up at their door. The Salvation Army Meals on Wheels senior program is dedicated to caring for seniors in the area and making sure they have nutritious meals.
The Salvation Army senior meals program provides hot meals to around 180 people every day. Each well-rounded meal contains a third of the daily nutrient requirements for a senior and is prepared fresh in house.
“The cooks are here very early in the morning, around 6 o’clock,” Karen Cooper said. “They get the food prepared and make sure everything is ready for the drivers by 10 o‘clock.”
Karen Cooper, the site supervisor for the Meals on Wheels program at the Salvation Army, says she works with some of the best cooks in Ottumwa. The prepared meals usually consist of a meat dish along with a fruit, vegetable and dairy side. The program does not cater to special diets, but they try to keep the food low sodium and provide a variety of dishes on a six-week cycle.
Once the food is prepared and packaged, it is ready to be divided up and sent out with the drivers. The program delivers to homes in Ottumwa, Eddyville and Agency. Cindy Davis, a Meals on Wheels driver, delivers about 20 meals a day in Ottumwa. She has worked with the program for six years and has grown close to many of the people she brings food to.
“They need someone to talk to, to know that someone cares about them, even if it's only for a couple minutes a day,” Davis said. “Sometimes all they have to look forward to is us bringing food to their door. It makes them really happy and it makes us happy.”
This program strives to make the lives of seniors in the community better. Even in severe weather, participants will get their meals. The dedicated cooks and drivers will prepare emergency or extra meals for people if they know it may be a couple days until they can bring them another meal.
The drivers also provide the comfort of knowing that someone will check up with them every day. Cooper said sometimes drivers will have to call an ambulance or emergency contacts if the participant is not doing well or needs help.
“They also deliver a little bit of friendship so that the people can have someone who's looking in on them,” Cooper said. “The drivers are part of their family, they consider them somebody that they get to see everyday, somebody that's going to care whether they're doing alright.”
Having nutritious meals delivered helps seniors be independent and healthy, but along with the delivered meals, food is also provided in the Salvation Army dining hall. Seniors can come in to have a warm meal and enjoy the company of others.
“We always have room for more people, even on our delivery routes,” Cooper said. “If people need meals, we definitely don't want them to go hungry.”