Meals on Wheels programs work to fill increasing food and technology gaps for high-risk people

Hays

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Meals on Wheels programs are facing an increased demand for people who need their services.

Meals on Wheels Rural Capital Area, which serves six counties including Hays and Caldwell, stated demand has even outweighed supply a few times since the pandemic began about nine months ago.

“It was tough making ends meet,” Susan Tilatitsky said when she first started receiving meals about three years ago.

When the pandemic hit, her meal deliveries became even more valuable.

“I have a bad heart… plus asthma,” Tilatitsky said. “Just going to H-E-B once a week to me was, you know, a struggle.”

That was the case for many others, too.

“We had seniors who were coming to locations to have their meals and have social time with others and that had to stop, immediately,” said Karen Walpole, a spokesperson for Meals on Wheels Rural Capital Area.

At times, she says they have been trying to meet a 160% increase in demand.

“When you have the families that were no longer able to get into their elder family members’ homes to help them with their daily functions, that increased our numbers, as well,” Walpole said.

In order to meet the need with the same staff and fewer volunteers, she says they reworked operations.

Meals on Wheels Rural Capital Area says it schedules deliveries over a three-day period every week.
(KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)

“Instead of delivering meals every single day, we’re now delivering meals to locations just once a week. Instead of doing hot meals we’re now doing frozen meals… with shelf-stable meals,” Walpole said.

On Wednesday night, San Marcos City Council members approved $15,000 in annual funding for the group, which says will go towards purchasing more food. They are now serving enough meals for seven days a week, instead of five.

Meals on Wheels programs are not only filling a food gap for older neighbors, but some are also filling a technology gap.

Students from nonprofit Telehealth Access for Seniors teamed up with Meals on Wheels Central Texas to donate 45 tablets on Thursday.

“Opens up the world of telemedicine and also the outside world to these homebound seniors that we serve,” said Meals on Wheels Central Texas spokesperson Thad Rosenfeld.

“Now I don’t have to depend on other people to do a lot of things. I do it my way, when I want to do it,” said Hertha Glenn, who received a tablet.

It’s a welcome gateway for her, even if it will take a little getting used to.

“At 100 years old, I don’t know what to do with it!” she said.

Telehealth Access for Seniors says clients who receive the tablets will also be able to call them for tech support around the clock. They also say assistance is available in a variety of languages.

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