Home-delivered and community meals didn’t always taste so good at Meals on Wheels of Bennington County. Executive director Susan Fox recalls witnessing “meals being made from canned meatballs.” And the center wasn’t as welcoming as it is now either. Again Fox remembers, “The dining room was dismal, full of boxes and freezers.” Fox found her motivation. Over the years she has changed the way the organization approaches its mission. “Good nutrition, particularly a balanced diet without processed foods, has been proven to reduce the need for hospitalizations and institutionalization,” she points out.
With the help of grants and support from the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging, Meals on Wheels of Bennington County was able to build a new kitchen and a dining room that they now call the Bennington Café. It serves the needs of the community as more than just a meal site. Seniors from all over Bennington come to the café to enjoy a delicious meal and the companionship of friends and neighbors without the stigma that can often accompany charitable food. Fox asks, “Why not focus on wellness and change the image of Meals on Wheels in the process?”
The Bennington Café’s kitchen provides clients with five servings of fruits and vegetables at every meal, which includes soup, a salad, an entrée, two vegetables, and dessert. One client remarked, “My trip to the café is my nutritional insurance for the day.” Most meals are made from donated food. This past year the program received nearly 30,000 pounds of food through the Vermont Foodbank, which helped Meals on Wheels of Bennington County reduce its food budget and offer more meals to the community.
Meals on Wheels of Bennington County provides nearly 50,000 meals annually. Three-quarters of these meals are to the homebound. “As older adults live longer, we see they are challenged with not having enough money and other resources to afford to live well,” says Fox. “If programs like Meals on Wheels are viewed as a resource, we can provide a source of nutritional supplement to our community in times of need.”
Meals on Wheels of Bennington County is on Facebook. Meals on Wheels of Bennington County is one of 270 network partners of the Vermont Foodbank. To find others, visit our Agency Locator.