Pets can do wonders for a senior’s quality of life. Many seniors rely on the relationships they form with their furry friends to avoid loneliness and feel useful. But when there isn’t enough food for everyone, some seniors may decide to sacrifice some of their own provisions to keep their pets fed and healthy.
Shirley Robinson, who is 74, said she had already worried about how she would find food for her two pet dogs, Lucky and Max. But now, as a client of Meals On Wheels Atlanta’s Pet Pantry program, she gets food delivered when the agency’s volunteers deliver food to her. “It’s so wonderful,” she said. “It’s nice.”
MOWA has served hungry seniors since 1965. As the agency has grown from humble beginnings as a soup kitchen to a complex program that serves more than 600,000 meals annually to area seniors of Metropolitan Atlanta, staff members realized that seniors providing food to their pets created a problem that the agency needed to help solve. In 2010, MOWA began providing pet food and pet care items to customers in need through its Pet Pantry.
“There was a senior who called and was on the verge of tears as she expressed her deepest appreciation for her program,” said Jason Tucker, chief innovation and business development manager, who oversees the Pet Pantry. “She was out of money and she was feeding the dog her food… she was down to her last few dollars and she had to make a decision on how to get food for her pets.”
And the need continues to grow.
“Last year we delivered about 3,350 pounds of pet food,” Tucker said. “This year we plan to provide 3,500 to 3,600 pounds of food. Next year, in 2023, we expect we could get up to 4,400 pounds of food.
Over the years, MOWA has adjusted in many ways to better meet the changing needs of its customers. In 2017, when staff members realized that many older people were not receiving food outside of the seven meals provided each week by the agency, MOWA implemented a breakfast program with breakfast provisions. stable lunches.
Another example of a service that MOWA has expanded to provide is home repairs, enabling older people to age in place. Coupled with the socialization and camaraderie that comes with visiting volunteers when delivering food, these services are essential to helping seniors survive and thrive.
In addition to cat and dog food, the Pet Pantry also provides necessities such as litter boxes, leashes, pet food bowls, beds, and even toys. These supplies are delivered once a month. Approximately 19% of seniors served by MOWA access the Pet Pantry.
While the majority of the organization’s overall annual funding comes from national Meals On Wheels grants and private fundraisers, partnerships such as the Atlanta Humane Association also provide food and goods to the Pet Pantry.
“Our seniors live alone, most of them, so providing that opportunity to connect with a living being is so important to their well-being and their emotional state,” Tucker said. “These elderly people who have pets have a constant bond and a form of socialization. Seniors consider their pets as part of their family, and it is so important to us to provide services to the senior and the pet to ensure that the family as a whole is healthy and happy. .
This year, with the help of building partners Choate Construction, ASD SKY and Design Galleria Kitchen and Bath Studio, MOWA renovated its headquarters and built a new kitchen. Once complete, staff members anticipate they will be able to expand their offerings from more than 1,800 meals per day to 3,500 meals per day.
“We want the community to understand that by supporting Meals on Wheels Atlanta through volunteering or financial support, you are helping hundreds of our elderly neighbors and their furry friends. That’s our mission — to support independence for seniors,” Tucker said.
“Additional programs like Pet Pantry and the breakfast program, that’s how we try to fill in the gaps that seniors face that we hear about from our volunteers and seniors who call. As we let’s use innovation to think of ways to fill these gaps for seniors, we really rely on the community to help us by donating their time and financial assistance.
If you would like to learn more, get involved, or donate to Meals on Wheels Atlanta, visit their website www.mowatl.org/donations.