Small ‘army’ of volunteers providing Meals on Wings to those in need

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JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Inflation, job loss and disability are some of the reasons many seniors in our community are simply unable to pay for or cook their own meals. Many have called Meals On Wheels for help, but the need is far too great.

Some are placed on a waiting list, but that “gap” has been filled over the past four years by Meals on Wings, a program made up of University of North Florida students and employees.

At first, Meals on Wings only served 25 seniors, but the pandemic and inflation have increased that need to point the program, which packages meals for seniors on the waiting list, now serves nearly 250 customers. .

University of North Florida students and employees prepare meals for seniors on the Meals On Wheels waiting list as part of Meals on Wings. (WJXT)

“The SNAP benefits don’t go as far as they used to because they get a fixed amount each month, until that month adjusts due to inflation, they don’t get as much,” Meghan Niemczyk explained. , Chief Advisor of Meals on Wings. “I get people calling me, they don’t have food and it breaks my heart. So, I think it’s important for all of us to remember that there are people who are struggling.

Meals on Wings co-director Jen Ross said the food was donated and would otherwise be wasted.

“We get meals from local hospitals, the Baptist system, St. Vincent’s and UF Health,” she said.

These are meals that are prepared for hospitalized patients. These patients are given meal options when they are admitted to the hospital. Often there are meals left over. These meals are intact, ready to be served.

The pandemic and inflation have increased needs to the point where the program now serves nearly 250 clients. (WJXT)

Students at UNF’s College of Health, Nutrition, and Nursing pick them up from the hospital, bring them back to the college kitchen, and then package them up for delivery to the elderly.

Ross said they deliver “four meals, a fresh salad and fruit once a week” to each of their customers.

The Meals on Wings program is unique in that it does not involve canned food.

“With my training as a chef, I am very attentive to the appearance of meals. I want them (the customer) to open their meal and feel like it was made for them,” Niemczyk said.

Colleen Lightfoot, a customer, said the meals saved her life.

“It’s hard. I can’t go to the store anymore,” she said from her wheelchair after opening the door to a college student who delivered her Thanksgiving meal.

Meals on Wings co-director Jen Ross said they deliver “four meals, a fresh salad and fruit once a week” to each of their customers. (WJXT)

Lightfoot started receiving meals about two months ago. She said if it wasn’t for the program, she would eat cereal.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she told the student who delivered her meal.

If you would like to learn more about the Meals on Wings program, Click here.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.

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Small ‘army’ of volunteers providing Meals on Wings to those in need

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