The Homebound Meals, Inc. program began service in Fort Wayne on March 1, 1971 from Lutheran Hospital with four meals. Within a month, another route was started at St. Anne’s Nursing Home. By August of the same year, Lutheran Hospital had three routes, St. Anne’s Nursing Home had two routes, and one route was delivered from Turtle Creek South. By November, we delivered from Parkview Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital also. Volunteers were recruited from church and service groups. The Red Cross trained the volunteers.
Homebound Meals, Inc. now delivers over 20 routes each weekday with meals prepared at the Rehabilitation Hospital at Lutheran, St. Joseph Hospital and Parkview Health.
Homebound Meals, Inc. is a Not for Profit Organization. Clients pay a fee, which covers the cost of their meals. Many of our clients who are unable to pay for their meals receive them at a subsidized price. Drivers volunteer their time and use of their car to deliver the meals to the clients. Some of our drivers have been driving since the inception of the program in 1971. Many volunteer drivers have driven for 10, 20, and even over 35 years. The drivers are dedicated and caring, and are the backbone of the program.
The San Francisco women’s auxiliary to the American Medical Association was the first medical auxiliary to institute the meal delivery service. Later, the national auxiliary established a committee to encourage local auxiliaries to set up such programs. The Allen County Medical Auxiliary followed the directive of the national organization by assisting in the development of the Homebound Meals, Inc. program in 1971. Homebound Meals, Inc. is a member of the national Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA).
Meals on Wheels are programs that deliver meals to individuals at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals. The name is often used generically to refer to home-delivered meals programs, not all of which are actually named “Meals on Wheels”. Because they are housebound, many of the recipients are the elderly, and many of the volunteers are also elderly but able-bodied and able to deliver the meals.
Meals on Wheels originated in Great Britain during the Blitz during World War II, when many people lost their homes and therefore the ability to cook their own food. The Women’s Volunteer Service for Civil Defense, (WVS, later WRVS), provided food for these people. The name “Meals on Wheels” derived from the WVS’s related activity of bringing meals to servicemen. The concept of delivering meals to those unable to prepare their own evolved into the modern programs.
The first home delivery of a meal on wheels following World War II was made by the WVS in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England in 1947. Many early services used old prams to transport the meals, using straw bales and even old felt hats to keep the meals warm in transit.
The first home-delivered meal program in the United States began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in January 1954. At the request of the Philadelphia Health & Welfare Council, and funded by a grant from the Henrietta Tower Wurtz Foundation, Margaret Toy, a social worker in Philadelphia’s Lighthouse Community Center, pioneered a program to provide nourishment that met the dietary needs of homebound seniors and other “shut-ins” in the area who otherwise would have to go hungry. As is the case today, many participants were people who did not require hospitalization, but who simply needed a helping hand in order to maintain their independence. Most of the volunteers were high school students, who were dubbed “Platter Angels.” The “Platter Angels” would prepare, package, and deliver food to the elderly and disabled throughout their community. The daily delivery consisted of one nutritionally balanced hot meal to eat at lunch time, and a dinner consisting of a cold sandwich and milk along with varying side dishes.
Columbus, Ohio, was the second city in the U.S. to establish a community based meals program. Building on the model set forth in Philadelphia, a federation of women’s clubs went through the town to inform themselves of possible participants for a meal service. In Columbus, all of the meals were prepared by local restaurants and delivered by taxi cabs during the week. On weekends, high school students filled the posts.
As cities nationwide eventually followed with similar programs, the Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) was established.