By Ray Balogh
WARSAW – Kosciusko County Senior Services provides the county’s only mobile meals program, and the dedicated administrators and volunteers stay busy delivering up to 350 midday meals a week to customers from Milford to Pierceton, North Webster to Etna Green.
Jennifer Buzzard, the agency’s mobile meals coordinator since August 2021, said Senior Services contracts with several vendors to obtain the meals, which are delivered year-round Monday through Friday.
The food services for Lutheran Hospital serves four of the agency’s six routes, and volunteers pick up meals from Miller’s Merry Manor for the Syracuse route and Harvest Coffee to cover Milford customers.
Each meal follows federal nutrition guidelines and contains a hot meat entree, potato or rice, vegetable, whole grain bread, a serving of dairy and some fruit.
Frozen meals for use during the weekend are available for delivery Wednesdays.
Meal recipients must be at least 60 years old and live in Kosciusko County. Many are referred to the program by family members, friends, social services or doctors’ offices.
The process begins by calling (574) 267-2912 and requesting an application. Upon receiving the completed paperwork, Buzzard determines the meal price, which can range from $3 to $5 depending upon individual financial circumstances
“We basically charge by how much income the customer has left after paying all their bills,” she said. “Real Services kicks in and pays the rest of the price for the meals.”
Buzzard faxes a copy of the forms to the customer’s doctor for instructions on diet restrictions. “All meals are made low sodium and low cholesterol. The customer can also pick what to change or eliminate and 90% of the time we can accommodate. So they can try to be picky — to a point.”
Customers specify how many meals they want each week and choose the days of delivery, and Buzzard notifies the respective kitchens of the new clientele. Their names, addresses, contact information, emergency contacts, diet restrictions and any special instructions are recorded in the reference binder used by each driver.
“The deliveries are not just meals, but also a wellness check and a chance for conversation and companionship,” Buzzard said.
“Sometimes we are the only people they see. Some have no one checking on them,” said Cindy Hunter, who has been a volunteer driver with Kosciusko Senior Services for five years after doing the same volunteer work in Wabash for nine years.
When Hunter moved to Warsaw five years ago, “the first two things I did was get a library card and find some way to volunteer to drive mobile meals. I’ve always been drawn to older people and I love my people so much. Even when they do not come to the door I try to at least lay my eye on them.”
Mary Hartle, in her 16th year as a volunteer driver, said the most gratifying aspect of her work is “the people are so appreciative and so nice to me, I just can’t get over that.”
Mobile Meals, a nonprofit endeavor, is looking for monetary donations and volunteers. “We need volunteers now because some drivers go to Florida or don’t like driving in this weather or are afraid to slip and fall,” said Buzzard, who noted 98% of the drivers are retirees.
“At the end of the day you feel that you helped a senior. If you want to help the community, volunteer.”
For more information or to volunteer or make a donation, call (574) 267-2912 and ask for Jen or Bev or visit www.kosciuskoseniorservices.org.