New Bedford shoreline marks 50 years of Meals on Wheels

In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed an amendment to the Seniors Act, creating a national nutrition program for seniors. This amendment paved the way for what is in place today: hot meals for seniors in fixed locations like senior centers and home delivery of meals to seniors who cannot go out.

The City of New Bedford ran the program in the early 1970s before it was transferred to Coastline Elderly Services in 1982. Today, its nutrition program, including Meals on Wheels, produces 440,000 meals a year for seniors in the New Bedford area.

Coastline Development Director Christine Sullivan and Nutrition Program Director Philip Beard joined town square sunday this week to review the history of the program and why it is important to so many people.

Sullivan said the nutrition program is doing a great job now, but is always looking for ways to improve. Beneficiaries are invited to complete an annual satisfaction survey, sharing their thoughts on how to improve the program. Last year, 70% of respondents said their program meal was their main meal of the day, and 80% of respondents rated the meals as “excellent” or “good”.

The program is funded by the Federal Older Americans Act and private donations. Coastline suggests a voluntary $2 donation for meals served at seniors’ centers or home deliveries, but no one is denied a meal if they can’t contribute.

Phil Beard has been part of the Coastline nutrition team for 21 years. He said among the most important members of the team are the drivers who deliver meals and provide security checks for people who might be sick and cannot leave their homes.

“In extreme situations, drivers find people on the ground, who need assistance. We consider our drivers to be ‘pre-first responders’ because we are often on the scene before the EMS,” Beard said.

Mayor Jon Mitchell and several city councilors will celebrate 50 years of Meals on Wheels on March 22 at the Buttonwood Warming House.

Christine Sullivan and Philip Beard’s interview can be heard here:

City center Sunday is a weekly public affairs program that airs Sunday mornings at 6 and 11 a.m. on 1420 WBSM and 99.5 FM.

The program highlights the individuals and organizations working to make Greater New Bedford a better place to live and work.

If you would like your organization to be listed on town square sundayplease email the host at [email protected]

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