STRAYER: Dig into Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels

Published 8:18 am Monday, January 29, 2018

In 1972, a small group of Niles community leaders founded the Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels program.

Now, 46 years later, the program and its volunteer drivers continue to deliver nutritious lunches and dinners each day to those area residents who need assistance in preparing their meals so that they can continue to live at home.

I know quite a bit about the Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels program because I am a member of its board of directors. My mother, Virginia Strayer, who celebrates her 102nd birthday on Jan. 31, was one of the original founders, so I am really speaking from experience.

When the Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels program began 46 years ago, there were plenty of volunteer drivers and scores of people who needed the services that Meals on Wheels provided.

With more and more women working, and at a time when high-quality assisted living facilities continue to provide services to their live-in residents, there are fewer volunteer drivers and fewer Meals on Wheels clients.

But there remain many misconceptions and a general lack of knowledge about who can receive daily Meals on Wheels.  Let me set the record straight and dispell these myths.

Myth #1:  Only elderly shut-ins can receive the services of  the Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels program. 

Wrong. There is no age limit or other health-based qualifications to become a recipient of our daily meals.

No medical referral is required.  For example, post-surgery patients who are sent home cannot always provide their own meals; nor can some wounded warriors who have returned home and need assistance. 

Some seniors are able to fix their own meals, but don’t want to brave the harsh elements of Berrien County’s weather.

Myth #2:  Meals provided by Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels are too expensive. 

Wrong. For $4.50 cents per day recipients of Meals on Wheels get a hot lunch and a cold supper each weekday.  Saturday meals are also available. 

Its is cheaper for many recipients to enroll in the program than to go to the grocery store to buy their own food.  Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels can also work with clients to help subsidize the meal program for the indigent. 

Also, Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels is a flexible program, allowing recipients to only receive meals a few days a week instead of five days.

Myth #3:  The Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels program is government-run. 

Wrong. The Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

No public funds are used by the Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels program. There are no government regulations involved, and all funding for the program is raised through private and corporate donations, as well as support from area foundations.

Myth #4:  Meals are prepared off-site. 

Wrong. All Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels lunches and dinners are prepared at Lakeland Community Hospital-Niles, with nutrition oversight provided by hospital personnel.  Special dietary concerns can be addressed by the hospital’s nutrition staff as well.

Find out more about the Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels program by calling the Niles-Buchanan Meals on Wheels facilitator Christie Purucker at (269) 687-1462.  You will learn a lot about this program my 102-year-old mother helped start 46 years ago.

Happy 102nd birthday, Mom!

Jack Strayer is a native of Niles who moved back home in 2009 after living and working in Washington, D.C., since 1976.