Riverside takes over Meals on Wheels, waitlist eliminated

By Merna Emara

Staff Writer

memara@fortfrances.com

Riverside Health Care Facilities is reaching out to the community, seeking volunteer support for the Meals on Wheels program.

The program has been drawing from a grant from the Ontario Community Support Association, which allowed Riverside to assist the Fort Frances Meals on Wheels program with drivers to supplement the volunteer food delivery which was facing restrictions due to the pandemic, according to David Black, Riverside Health Care Community Services director.

With this supplemental funding expiring in the coming weeks, Black said they will be reaching out to previous volunteers, and looking for new ones to assist with the program.

Black added that municipal funding plays a key role in the Meals on Wheels program, saying the town is aware of the transition and Riverside has been in communication to ensure the Meals on Wheels program remains adequately funded and accessible to the many users with food security issues in Fort Frances.

Riverside Health Care Facilities has taken over preparing and delivering the meals for the Meals on Wheels program on July 1, 2021, after the Fort Frances Meals on Wheels volunteer board faced several challenges in the summer of 2020.

Black noted that the impending retirement of long-time program coordinator, Gaby Hanzuk, funding gaps, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic were all taking their toll on the volunteer board.

“The Fort Frances Meals on Wheels program and Riverside have a long-standing relationship of Riverside supplying the meals for the program,” Black said. “This partnership allowed for an easy transition for the Meals on Wheels board who had been contemplating stepping down for some time.”

Black said that since Riverside assumed the lead in July, they have been able to eliminate the wait list and grow the amount of meal users to around 40 recipients.

“We are forecasting to have delivered over 5,500 meals from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2021,” Black said. “For anyone interested in subscribing to the Fort Frances Meals on Wheels program or for those interested in volunteering, please call Riverside Community Support Services at 274-2244 for more information.”

The Fort Frances Meals on Wheels program runs Monday to Friday, excluding statutory holidays. Meals are delivered between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Black said it is important for the seniors living in Fort Frances to remain in their own homes.

“Our efforts to provide stable food security for some of our most vulnerable residents aligns with our mission of Improving the health of every person we serve, responding to the needs of our communities,” Black said. “It has been a very rewarding experience to hear the feedback from the program users. Not only do they greatly enjoy the meals, but also the social interaction with the delivery person. For some program users it is the only person they see in a day.”

Historically, Black said, the meals were developed and packaged out of the Rainycrest site, in order to provide a wider variety of foods and to accommodate a wider variety of dietary needs as well as to assist with the pandemic restrictions on long-term care, the MOW meals are now being prepared, packaged and delivered out of our La Verendrye General Hospital (LVGH) site.

However, when Riverside took over, meal delivery times were adjusted from supper time delivery to a lunch time delivery, said Black. Meals costs remain at $7.50 per meal.

Kathryn Pierroz, communications coordinator at Riverside Health Care Facilities, said the program allows their clients to be connected to their community and supports ongoing personal independence.

However, when Riverside took over, meal delivery times were adjusted from supper time delivery to a lunch time delivery, said Black. Meals costs remain at $7.50 per meal.

Kathryn Pierroz, communications coordinator at Riverside Health Care Facilities, said the program allows their clients to be connected to their community and supports ongoing personal independence.

“Meals on Wheels is a valuable program that provides much more than nutritious meals to those unable to acquire or prepare food on their own,” she added.