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March for Meals: The 50th Anniversary and Celebration of the Meals on Wheels Program, A Lifeline for Many Vermonters

Longtime volunteer Carole Baker slices FEAST Farm–raised, local, fresh bell peppers in the FEAST kitchen for Meals on Wheels production. Photo by Janna Clar.
According to the Vermont Foodbank, one in every seven Vermonters is struggling with food insecurity. The rugged rural beauty that defines our state can make it a challenging place to live for older adults, who often struggle with transportation. The isolating nature of rural living can make it hard to even determine who is in need. Meals on Wheels is a lifeline for these home-bound seniors. 

During my four years working at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, I witnessed the beautiful community effort behind Montpelier’s Meals on Wheels program. Volunteers, many of them older adults themselves, come together to produce high-quality meals made with local ingredients. Other volunteers come from local businesses and schools, and they enjoy camaraderie in the kitchen and even come away with a new skill or two. And then, the most beautiful and heartwarming piece: the deliveries. 

Local youth volunteers harvest kale at the FEAST Farm for local Meals on Wheels production. Photo by Jac Huettenmoser.
Imagine living at home, relying on friends or family or limited public transportation to get to errands or appointments. Perhaps you are recovering from a recent surgery, or you’ve recently lost a loved one. This is the reality for many older adults across the country, but especially in rural areas such as Vermont. A visit from a Meals on Wheels driver might be the only visit you get in a day. During the pandemic, this isolation was even more pronounced for older adults. In addition to delivering a hot meal, delivery drivers provide a friendly face and a wellness check for these seniors. 

Sarah Lipton, director of the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, recently spoke with us about the March for Meals celebration she is planning. This month-long fundraiser will mark the 50th anniversary of the national Meals on Wheels program and will highlight the incredible progress the Montpelier program has made over recent years. Lipton hopes to bring Meals on Wheels into the spotlight and raise awareness about its deep impact in our community.

During the month of March, several events throughout the community will mark March for Meals. Special guests and local celebrities will be delivering meals. The Kellogg-Hubbard Library will have a special storytime focused on the importance of home-delivered meals, along with a family performance by the band Night Kitchen. The month-long celebration will culminate with an online concert given by the Montpelier Gospel Choir and a roundtable conversation with Vermont leaders in food security, alongside a Mediterranean meal made especially for the occasion. An extra special guest will be joining for a keynote conversation and show: Justin Michael Williams, nationally known star motivational speaker and performer (justinmichaelwilliams.com).

“No longer can we allow older adults to feel the stigma of shame when what they need is access to nutritious, delicious food,” Lipton told me. “As a community, we can come together to shine a light on our vitally important, city-run FEAST Senior Meals Program [and] bring this essential senior meals program into the spotlight.” 

We are so fortunate to live in a place where people can access programs such as Meals on Wheels and where our community looks out for each other.  To get involved, visit the FEAST Senior Meals website at www.montpelier-vt.org/feast

Dan Groberg is the executive director of Montpelier Alive.