Delivering More Than 50 Years of Nutrition With a Smile Posted on October 15, 2019June 11, 2021 It’s not just breaded fish, a turkey sandwich and some fruit delivered three times a week. So much more goes into the freshly prepared food that’s acted as a valuable resource for Lutheran Service Society’s Meals on Wheels recipients for more than 50 years. Started in Philadelphia of 1954, Meals on Wheels was the first home-delivered meal program to operate in the United States. In an effort to provide for more seniors, Lutheran Service Society went on to introduce the first Pittsburgh Meals on Wheels kitchen at Trinity Lutheran Church in 1968. Today, the original 17 North Side clients have grown into 100 residents actively served from one kitchen in Beaver County. As many as six kitchens operated in Beaver before merging into the one that is currently run out of Grace Lutheran Church in Rochester Pa. What was previously categorized as a traditional delivery of two meals now goes beyond food to encompass balanced nutrition, socialization, safety checks and immeasurable peace of mind for caregivers. “Each three-course dinner tray from Bateman Community Living is made with no preservatives, contains low sodium and no added sugar,” said Michael Dengel, program manager for Meals on Wheels in Rochester. “This ensures a quality product we can feel good about.” Dengel said oftentimes, Meals on Wheels drivers are the only people a client will talk to, or see, during the day. So just 60 seconds of visitation means a lot. With each delivery, volunteers also engage in conversation, which guarantees a few minutes of interaction and a wellness assessment. “We never knock on a door, put the meal down and walk away,” Dengel said. “A friendly smile is something we’ve found to be missing in the lives of many seniors and I’m proud to say that we fulfill that need.” Another notable contribution within the past half a century includes streamlined operations. “The consolidation into one kitchen has allowed us to focus our resources in one centralized location,” Dengel said. “Now we can be more productive, have more control over expenses as well as improve the quality and standardization of our meals.” Historically speaking, most Meals on Wheels volunteers were high school students known as “Platter Angels” and volunteers from local churches. Now, recent partnerships, such as two formed with Community and Residential Empowerment Services or (C.A.R.E.S.) and McGuire Memorial, have improved working efficiency. “Both organizations empower adults with disabilities to connect with their communities and their volunteer involvement has allowed us to expand our services tremendously,” Dengel said. “They are truly enthusiastic about going out into any neighborhood in Beaver County and our clients appreciate this.” You can help us reach more seniors in need by making a referral to Beaver County Meals on Wheels. If you or someone you love lives in Beaver County and could benefit from Meals on Wheels, please contact Michael Dengel at (724) 774-0292 or email Michael.Dengel@lutheranseniorlife.org.