By Nicole Hansen SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Mason Kaufman had one particular delivery that he made with Meals on Wheels that stuck out in his mind.
“There wasn’t an answer at the door, I decided to see if the door was open, it was,” he said. “I walked in and that person was on the floor. I had to call an ambulance. We intervene like that occasionally and save people’s lives.”
Meals on Wheels of Syracuse delivers nutritious meals to elderly individuals in the Syracuse area who aren’t able to go out and buy or cook food for themselves. It’s one of the programs that has popped up recently as at risk to lose funding in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.
Mason Kaufman, the Executive Director of Meals on Wheels of Syracuse, explained that the program does a lot more for the Syracuse community than simply deliver nutritious meals.
“Ultimately, it helps to feed them and provide them with a sense of security,” Kaufman said. “It gives their caregivers and families a sense of security knowing that someone is out there providing meals and checking in on them on a daily basis.”
Last year, Meals on Wheels of Syracuse delivered just fewer than 216,000 meals to 767 recipients. Kaufman explained that there are additional health benefits to the seniors who receive this food other than just getting a nutritious meal.
“Many of those individuals would go hungry,” he said. “It also helps to save a huge amount of health care dollars by keeping people healthier. We know that malnourished seniors have a higher rate of hospital readmissions, have stayed eight days longer in a hospital. We also know that they have a higher risk of falls if they don’t have the home delivered meals. All those things, and keeping them out of nursing homes, saves health care dollars, saves Medicaid dollars, for all of us.”
Gretchen Roberts has been a delivery volunteer once a week with Meals on Wheels for over ten years. She said she got started at the suggestion of a friend who worked in the kitchen at the organization.
“[My friend] was telling me…what good feeling she gets from doing it, and so when I retired, I wanted to do something, I wanted to give back, I wanted to have a volunteering experience,” Roberts explained. “This seemed like a good place to start. And I’ve been here ever since.”
Roberts reiterated the impact that Meals on Wheels has on the recipients of the food, while emphasizing the personal connections that are formed between volunteers and recipients.
“We get close to the people,” Roberts said. “When you’ve done it for as long as we have, you get to know the people on the route, and you know when things aren’t going well for them or if they have questions, you’re there for them. So it’s a good feeling.”
“We’ve gone to funerals, we send birthday cards, we sing happy birthday,” she continued. “You get attached, you really do.”
Roberts emphasized how the seniors really do enjoy having the volunteers there, further emphasizing how important both she and Kaufman feel the organization is to the community.
This is an essential program,” Kaufman stated. “It feeds vulnerable seniors.”