HUNTERDON COUNTY, NJ - With new plans and efforts for preparedness and safety protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, home delivery of meals for people in need is part of the freeholder board’s agenda as it oversees and advises on operations and services throughout the county.
In March, Hunterdon County officials discussed the Meals on Wheels program, servicing residents ages 60 and up with home-delivered food at lunch hour every weekday, and offering packed meal delivery on Fridays for weekends.
“Meals on Wheels serves a vital purpose for our older residents, more so now than ever before with people being shut in,” Freeholder Director Shaun C. Van Doren said. “The county is most appreciative of the organization and all the many residents who have stepped forward to volunteer.”
Hunterdon County Administrator Kevin Davis explained that the Hunterdon County Department of Human Services’ Division of Senior, Disabilities and Veteran’s Services offers support to the third-party, private non-profit corporation Meals on Wheels in Hunterdon. The organization was incorporated in the State of New Jersey in 1990.
“The county supports the Meals on Wheels program financially through Senior Services, about $220,000 annually, which comes mostly from grants,” he said.
At the recent freeholder board meeting, Davis presented an update on the program’s continued operations. By March 13, new measures had been put in place to ensure safety of both volunteer deliverers and drivers, and the recipients of Meals on Wheels.
“Meal deliveries are made to participants’ dwellings, and they must have a cooler or some type of receptacle outside their home for the volunteer to drop off the meal,” he said. “This practice eliminates direct contact between participants and volunteers.”
Davis said that a call for more volunteers has been well-responded to so far, although the need for more helping hands continues.
“Early on in the crisis, because most volunteers are older people, there was a drop-off in volunteers,” he said. “When the call went out, there was a great response from our county residents. I am advised that some Hunterdon County mayors participated in volunteer recruitment and gained a good response as we see the program continue to serve community members.”
In addition to funding, Hunterdon County provides space for the program to use at the Senior Center in Flemington. The “Congregate Meals’ take place at this location for seniors who have the ability to travel, and they dine at 11:45 a.m. on weekdays in the same location where delivery meals are prepared and packed.
The Meals on Wheels program describes its Flemington noon hour meals as an opportunity for independent seniors to socialize with friends and participate in educational and entertaining programs. However, Davis explained, in mid-March the Congregate Meal program was temporarily suspended due to coronavirus and the statewide ban on group activities as well as keeping with social distancing measures.
People age 60 or over in need of prepared home delivered meals can call Meals on Wheels at 908-284-0735.
County officials advise that volunteers are always needed. Those seeking to volunteer can call the same number or go to http://www.mowih.org/.