By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Home Delivered Meals, or as it is commonly known, “Meals on Wheels,” has been a part of the Marshfield community since 1986.
The program provides nutritious meals to Marshfield residents that are either unable to go shopping for themselves or unable to prepare their own meals. All income levels and ages are eligible for the program.
Home Delivered Meals is a nationwide program and was initially started during World War II to take care of families impacted by the War. Jackie Zoellner, the coordinator of Home Delivered Meals in Marshfield, said that the program started as a way to take care of veterans and their families, and it eventually spread to the community at large.
In Marshfield the program works with 130 residents and averages 100 meals distributed each day. The number of meals fluctuates because not every resident requires a meal every day. Participants in the program are delivered one hot meal per day, and they can also get a cold meal delivered as a second serving.
Home Delivered Meals is primarily funded by United Way but relies almost entirely on volunteers to drive and deliver meals to residents in need. Zoellner said that working with volunteers is one of the biggest joys of her position.
“People who volunteer to do things are nice people. I get to work with nice people,” Zoellner said. “That’s the best part of my job.”
She added that it is a continuous challenge to find enough volunteers to deliver the meals. Home Delivered Meals needs eight drivers Monday-Friday and three for Saturday and Sunday. Some long-term volunteers that delivered on a consistent basis have recently stopped working with the program because they were simply no longer able to, Zoellner said.
“During this past year we’ve lost probably five or six drivers who helped us every week who just got old and sick themselves. They were retired people when they started doing this,” Zoellner said.
She added that the volunteers are “like family” to her.
Zoellner also enjoys meeting with the participants in the program, bringing meals to them, talking with them, and meeting their families.
“The vast majority of them are sitting in their window watching for you, and they’re just waiting for you to come because for a lot of them you’re their conversation piece for the day,” Zoellner said.
Using volunteers allows the program to keep the cost of the meals low. A meal costs $4.30. Items on the October menu include beef stroganoff, lasagna, sweet and sour chicken, and roast pork. Main courses are accompanied by bread, dessert, and milk or juice.
The program can also accommodate those with special diets. Meals can be prepared and geared toward diabetics, those with low cholesterol, or those that may need gluten-free meals.
Anyone interested in volunteering to drive and deliver meals should contact Jackie Zoellner at 715-387-9585. Those that can help once a week or more are encouraged to volunteer, but any time commitment is also welcomed. Delivering the meals takes about one hour. For more information on the program, visit www.ministryhealth.org/homedeliveredmeals.