"I've been independent all my life and I never wanted to say this out loud but—I couldn't do without this program."
"We are like family. We care about each other and check in every day."
These words from Meals That Connect participants highlight a truth about the program’s power: serving up healthy meals is just one part of the Meals That Connect experience. The other key ingredient is social connection.
Since 1991, Meals That Connect has been providing free noontime meals, and a place to connect, for seniors across SLO County. The group provides free meal delivery to homebound seniors, as well as eight in-person dining sites across the county, with midday meals served Monday-Friday.
"Loneliness” is having a moment right now, largely thanks to US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy bringing the issue into the national conversation. Loneliness is often seen as a challenge faced by the elderly, with good reason—as we age, we lose friends and it’s often harder to get out of our homes to see friends or family. It’s also something we heard again and again in our recent community health survey.
To Meals That Connect, that’s an issue they've been addressing for decades. They provide the regular space and a steady schedule that fosters connection, often providing the one opportunity for someone to leave the house each day. They even celebrate birthdays and provide space for card playing and laughter—long after the meal is finished.
"We eat lunch and then stay and play games for two hours at the senior center. It gets me out of the house."
Thanks to recent grant funding, Meals That Connect has also be able to reach new milestones, such as creating a new user-friendly website that makes it easier for seniors to get involved and find the information they need.
"Since my wife passed, I started dining with other seniors who are now my great friends."
The grant also allowed them to acquire a new, larger van — so the group can deliver more nutritious meals in one trip.
To learn more about Meals That Connect's mission and initiatives, visit their new website at www.mealsthatconnect.org or follow them on social media @MealsThatConnect.
-- Support for this program was provided by the County's Public Health Impact Funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which aims to address critical community health improvement needs, like healthy aging.