40-Year Meals on Wheels Memorial Partnership Still Rolling

Each day, the Memorial Medical Center cafeteria serves about 5,000 meals to patients, employees and visitors. But Food and Nutrition Services also set aside time to prepare about 75 meals for a different group: the local residents who receive a hot lunch delivered by Springfield Specialty Meals on Wheels.

“Even though 75 doesn’t sound like a lot, compared to the total number of meals we make, it’s a big part of our day,” said Jim Mordacq, patient room service manager.

The MMC kitchen has served as the food-preparation site for Meals on Wheels for more than four decades. Since fall 2014, the program, which was previously administered by the Illinois Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, has been under the auspices of Senior Services of Central Illinois.

Preparing Meals Monday through Friday

Food and Nutrition employees prepare meals for the organization each morning, Monday through Friday. The process starts just after 8 a.m., when a list detailing who will receive meals that day arrives from Senior Services. The list also includes information about each recipient’s dietary restrictions—including low-sodium and low-sugar fare—or other special needs, such as making sure food arrives already cut into bite-size pieces.

By 9:45, the action has moved to the kitchen. In addition to lunch, some recipients get a light breakfast for the following morning. Those “cold” items are packed separately from the hot lunch for the day, which is assembled in trays by a team of three people. Once the food is prepared, all 75 meals are assembled and packed away in insulated delivery bags within 15 minutes, ensuring everything remains hot until it reaches its destination.

Volunteers from the community begin lining up at the receiving dock outside the kitchen at about 11 a.m. With the help of Sara Powell from Springfield Specialty Meals on Wheels, they load the food into their cars and set out on delivery routes of about 10 stops each.

Nutrition, Safety and Independence

The program provides nourishing food to people who would otherwise find it difficult to prepare their own meals—usually senior citizens, although some recipients may be younger. Many are homebound or recovering from illnesses, meaning the volunteer who delivers their meals can also provide much-needed social contact and the opportunity for a new friendship.
In addition to meals, the program also provides an element of security. If no one answers the door when volunteers arrive, Powell is able to follow up and make sure the resident is safe by getting in touch with his or her emergency contacts or, if necessary, local authorities.

“I always say that our volunteers are a lifeline, helping people stay in their homes as they age,” Powell said.

One of those volunteers is retiree Dave Klestinski, who’s delivered meals for the program for about three and a half years. He said his faith inspires him to give back to the community, while he also enjoys getting to know the people he serves. “I’m blessed to be able to do this,” he said.