Seniors in Bennington County do not always get the proper nutrition. Facts show that better nutrition leads to better health. As executive director of Meals on Wheels of Bennington County, I knew we had to make a change in how we were reaching out to seniors about our program. Our recent collaboration with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center has helped us do just that.
SVMC Director of Health Resource Management Jennifer Fels and I have been working on getting health care information to seniors when they might be more open to it. For example, we designed a program to tell seniors about Meals on Wheels when they are being discharged from SVMC. We give each senior a packet of 10 coupons to try Meals on Wheels for free either with home delivery service or at our café at 125 Pleasant St. in Bennington.
Our main goals in doing this are to get more seniors to try our program and to keep seniors who had been admitted and released from SVMC out of the hospital for as long as possible. So far it’s been working. We began the program about 10 months ago and since then, 286 new people have tried our food and none of the coupon recipients have had to return to the hospital.
Accessing fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers, we provide seniors the daily nutrition they need and that many of them do not get every day. Each menu concentrates on quality over quantity. Each meal contains the five servings of fruits and vegetables recommended each day.
Our meals are fresh, nutritious and well-prepared. We know that once people try our food, they will love it, and hopefully suggest us to their friends as well. We ask for a donation of only $3.95 per meal. It is so wonderful to see seniors of all ages and from all walks of life come to the café, sit down together, and enjoy the social environment while eating food that we know is good for them.
For Jennifer and me, the partnership between Meals on Wheels and SVMC is more than a logical step in changing the way patients are cared for after they leave the hospital. It is about taking the health care system to a person-to-person level, helping health care providers encourage their patients to eat better, and it is about encouraging people of all ages to have an active role in their own health.
It also is a great example of the progress that can be made when two community organizations work together. Both organizations value good nutrition and keeping people healthy, so why not work together to combine our resources and strengths?
Meals on Wheels is a national program open to anyone age 60 or older. On any given day in our café, you can meet the likes of someone who has run 12 marathons, a computer expert, former teachers, engineers, and loving grandparents who like to show off pictures of their grandchildren. If you’re 60 or older, stop by one day. We’ll be sure you get a great-tasting meal that also provides you with great nutrition.
Susan Fox is the executive director of Meals on Wheels of Bennington County. "Health Matters" is a weekly column presented by Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care. Visit svhealthcare.org or Facebook to learn more about SVMC.