Lighting the Way for Healthier Aging
Meals on Wheels San Diego County has been on a road to deliver the healthiest and freshest meals to our seniors through innovative thinking. Through the years we have built a state of the art commercial kitchen, added a Healthy Latino entrée selection and transformed our landscaping at our Administration building to a sustainable herb, spice and fruit garden. When we embarked on our most recent five year Strategic Plan, technology was on our radar to better serve our clients and improve efficiency, but we knew we were years away from embarking on that road since only 25% of our volunteers had smart devices.
2017 sped up our ability to embrace technology. As part of the More Than a Meal-Phase 3 study with Brown University, the West Health Institute and Meals on Wheels America, we had the opportunity to test a mobile application that not only has client delivery information, GPS capabilities to route our volunteers, but more importantly, track the change of condition of our seniors on a daily basis. In this way we have the ability with a Care Navigator to coordinate additional support a senior may need. A volunteer survey was conducted to understand the use of mobile devices. The growth was significant with 93% of the respondents owning and using a smart device! Our lightbulb moment occurred that now is the time to jump headlong in bettering our seniors’ lives through technology.
The results have been staggering in the short time we have been conducting the study. A third of our clients have had a “Change in Condition” reported. We have successfully intervened to coordinate additional support, thereby keeping the senior from having an emergency situation occur. The culmination of the study ends in March and we are planning on expanding the mobile application to more of our routes.
In January of 2017 Meals on Wheels expanded our delivery program within the City of Vista, becoming a sub-contractor for their clients receiving Home Delivered meals through San Diego County’s Older Americans Act funding. This new service came with a Hot Shot vehicle to keep our entrées hot and the beverages and fruit cold.
Our Annual Gala was another huge success, MOWTOWN, where everyone danced the night away with the Detroit sounds of the 60’s. The Chef’s Appetizer Challenge continues to be a highlight of the event with Top Chefs competing for the “Chefy” Award.
During March for Meals, Meals on Wheels was thrust into the headlines as the value of our program was put into question. Meals on Wheels became a household word, allowing us the opportunity to tell our story to the nation at large. Our seniors needed us to speak on their behalf that the funds for Meals on Wheels is an integral part of keeping health care costs down by providing needed nutrition and daily visits by our volunteers. The message was clear, it is a human issue with no sides to be taken.
2018 will remain a challenge as the need grows and the world of charitable giving continues to change. Our innovative thinking will light the way to improve our efficiency to better serve more seniors throughout San Diego County. For a full list of our 2017 donor giving visit www.meals-on-wheels.org/donor-honor-roll.