West Central Industries to no longer provide Meals on Wheels service – West Central Tribune

WILLMAR – Since 1972, homebound senior citizens in the Willmar area have relied on West Central Industries to deliver nutritious, hot meals to their homes.

Beginning June 1, the meals will be delivered by Lutheran Social Services Meals, which has already been offering bundled meals at local food shelves and operating a bistro dining center for seniors at Willmar Community Center.

“It was not an easy decision, but we really feel Lutheran Social Services is the proper provider and will do a wonderful job for members of our community,” said WCI Executive Director Renee Nolting.

Duane Lardy brings food outside to be loaded up for Meals on Wheels at West Central Industries on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Duane Lardy brings food outside to be loaded up for Meals on Wheels at West Central Industries on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Currently, WCI is delivering about 60 meals per day, but it would need a much larger volume to make the program cost-effective, according to Nolting.

Rising food and labor costs made it difficult for WCI to provide a complete meal for $ 7, causing WCI’s board of directors to take a long, hard look at the future of the program.

“We had to make the decision for the health of the organization,” Nolting commented, noting she is grateful for everybody who has supported WCI.

WCI has been losing money on the program for a long time, according to Nolting. Changes in funding, as well as a decreased volume of catered meals to area schools and community dining programs, made it difficult to make the program sustainable.

When federal funding became available for Meals on Wheels programs through the Older American Act, WCI’s efforts were not included as a program that could receive funding due to being a pre-existing program, according to Nolting.

West Central Industries kitchen manager Angela Rodriguez staples meals in bags shut before sending them off to be distributed for Meals on Wheels at West Central Industries on Friday, May 20, 2022.

West Central Industries kitchen manager Angela Rodriguez staples meals in bags shut before sending them off to be distributed for Meals on Wheels at West Central Industries on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The program lost its United Way funding about four years ago when the application process changed, Nortling said.

It has been more than 10 years since WCI contracted with Community Christian School to provide meals for students, according to Nortling. Changes in federal nutrition requirements for school lunches under the Obama administration made it difficult to be cost-effective in providing the lunches. Community Christian Schools instead began contracting with Willmar Public Schools for meals.

WCI also provided the meals for LSS senior dining in Kandiyohi and Meeker counties until a few years ago. Due to a need to increase rates to cover the cost to prepare the meals, LSS found a different provider, according to Nortling.

Finding volunteer drivers to deliver meals was always difficult, Nortling commented. During COVID-19, state funding made it possible for Central Community Transit to deliver the 60-plus meals in Willmar.

“We are so grateful CCT started delivering meals,” Nolting said.

Kirsten Schlomann puts food back away after packaging meals to be used for Meals on Wheels at the kitchen of West Central Industries on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Kirsten Schlomann puts food back away after packaging meals to be used for Meals on Wheels at the kitchen of West Central Industries on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The Minnesota Department of Transportation ended funding for meal delivery May 1. If food entities wanted to continue to use public transit to deliver meals, they would have to start paying for the service.

Lutheran Social Services Meals

“LSS never wanted to duplicate services in Willmar, so LSS Meals had only been offering the bistro dining at the Willmar Community Center since WCI had a long excellent history of providing the Meals on Wheels service,” said Chrissy Elton, regional manager of LSS Meals .

LSS Meals is a line of service through Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, with central kitchens staffed by LSS employees and a licensed dietitian, according to Elton.

Noon meals are served Monday through Friday via home-delivered meals and bistro dining at community centers. Meals can also be shipped, and LSS Meals provides bundled frozen meals during distribution events in partnership with local food shelves through the Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors.

LSS Meals is funded in part by a contract with MN River Area Agency on Aging which receives Federal Older Americans Act funds distributed by the MN Board on Aging, according to Elton. Additional funds are provided by the State of MN, United Way, local businesses and communities, and donations from the seniors that receive meals.

Anyone over the age of 60 can receive meals for the $ 5 suggested donation per meal after completing a National Aging Program Information System form, which helps track how many meals and people are served, helps to better understand the needs and situations of the people served, and evaluates the effectiveness of LSS services, according to Elton.

David Chanthakoune wraps up a pizza with saran wrap for Meals on Wheels at West Central Industries on Friday, May 20, 2022.

David Chanthakoune wraps up a pizza with saran wrap for Meals on Wheels at West Central Industries on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Anyone under the age of 60 can receive meals for $ 8.75. EBT (Snap vouchers) are accepted, and county-waivered programs can help cover the cost of meals, Elton noted.

WCI and LSS have worked with social workers to ensure people currently receiving waivered services are signed up to continue receiving their meals, according to Nolting. For those not on waivered services, information was provided to them as soon as the change was decided to allow them time to sign up.

Meals are prepared at LSS’s Litchfield kitchen, individually packaged, and delivered to Willmar via the LSS Meals food transporter. Volunteers pick up the meals and deliver them to homes.

LSS Meals is currently seeking volunteer drivers to deliver meals between 11 am and noon. Those interested should contact Elton at 1-866-974-0289.

Mark Holtan of Central Community Transit loads coolers of food up before distributing them on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Mark Holtan of Central Community Transit loads coolers of food up before distributing them on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

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