Meals on Wheels logo
Ad Council logo

Frequently Asked Questions

About Meals on Wheels

  • What is Meals on Wheels?

    Meals on Wheels is a nationwide network of community-based, non-profit programs dedicated to providing seniors in their communities with the support that enables them to remain living in their own homes, where they want to be. This support is typically a nutritious meal, a friendly visit and a quick safety check.

  • Will I eat with the clients?

    Volunteers are expected to deliver the meal and generally check in with the clients to make sure they are OK through a friendly greeting or brief conversation. You are not expected to stay with the client for the meal.

  • What does Meals on Wheels do?

    Meals on Wheels primarily provides nutritious meals to homebound seniors with the added bonus of a quick safety check and much-needed human connection that come with each delivery. In some communities, additional services that keep seniors healthy and safe are also offered, like pet food delivery, senior center meal programs, home repair services and transportation. Each local program works with its own community's needs and resources to provide a community-specific solution.

  • Why does Meals on Wheels exist?

    The reality is, more than 10 million seniors in America struggle with hunger, 15.2 million live in isolation and 18.4 million live in or near poverty. And, this problem will only become more serious as the senior population is projected to double by 2050. Families are spread out and elders are left behind, often as they struggle to remain able to take care of themselves.

  • Why is volunteering for Meals on Wheels so important?

    People 85+ represent the fastest growing segment of the American population and the number of seniors as a whole is projected to double over the next three to four decades. While our current corps of 2 million volunteers is struggling to keep pace with this rapid growth, it will take a huge increase in the number of volunteers and resources to begin to meet the need going forward. America, Let’s Do Lunch is intended to shine a light on this growing and urgent need and help spark the involvement of people just like you to help fill that need.

  • Who pays for the meals?

    Each local community sets its own payment policies based it its needs and resources. As a whole, approximately one third of the cost is paid by the Older Americans Act while two thirds comes from client payments and contributions from private donors, foundations and state and local governments.

  • What is Meals on Wheels America?

    Meals on Wheels America is the national membership organization that represents the 5,000 local community-based programs across the country dedicated to improving the lives of their senior neighbors. At the national level, we create opportunities, generate research that improves performance and act as the national voice that empowers and strengthens local communities.

About Meals on Wheels Clients

  • Who are the clients of Meals on Wheels?

    We serve more than 2.4 million seniors from 60 to 100+ years old each year. These are our loved-ones, parents, grandparents, veterans and neighbors. They are primarily older than 60 and because of physical limitations or financial reasons, have difficulty shopping for or preparing meals for themselves. From rural communities to urban centers across the country, hardly any senior is beyond our reach. More than half a million of the people we serve are veterans. 64% of clients are women. 40% live in poverty. 100% would love to meet you.

  • Who qualifies for Meals on Wheels?

    Seniors threatened with hunger and social isolation make up the core of Meals on Wheels clients. Specific qualifications vary by community, however, services typically require physical or financial challenges to their ability to eat healthy meals and move freely about their communities. In many communities, local resources are not enough to meet the need, forcing wait lists of people who need the service but are not yet receiving it.

  • How can I apply to receive meals?

    If you'd like to request meals for yourself or for a loved one, please visit our organization's website to find out more.

About Volunteering

  • What will I be doing when I volunteer?

    The most common volunteer job is delivering meals and friendly greetings to homebound seniors. Most typically, this involves picking up meals at a central location and delivering them along a pre-determined route directly to the homes of several seniors in your area. Once you are done, you return the delivery packaging items and get back on your way.

  • How often will I be expected to volunteer?

    You can set up a volunteer schedule that works with yours. Whether that be once a week, once a month or on call, just mention your preferences when you connect with your local program.

  • How do I sign up?

    Fill out the form on this site and we will let the local Meals on Wheels in your area know that you are interested. They will follow up with you shortly, however, if you want to contact them directly we will also provide you with their information when you sign up in a follow-up email.

  • Can I volunteer with a group?

    Groups are very welcome, please mention your interest in volunteering as a group when speaking to your local program.

  • Can my company or organization set up volunteer opportunities in multiple cities?

    Yes! Companies or organizations interested in creating group volunteer opportunities in multiple cities can express interest by sending an email to volunteer@mealsonwheelsamerica.org.

  • Why is there a vetting process for volunteers?

    While the vetting process for volunteers varies by location, all programs are invested in the safety of their clients. You may be asked to undergo a background check process prior to delivering meals unaccompanied by a more experienced volunteer or staff member.

  • How long does it take to volunteer?

    Our aim is to provide volunteer opportunities that will fit into a typical lunch break of up to an hour and a half. Please feel free to discuss time constraints you may have with your local program when you are signing up to volunteer.

  • Who prepares the food?

    Typically paid staff and/or volunteers who want to help in the kitchen prepare the meals. Food preparation is not part of the meal delivery volunteer assignment. Meals are individually packaged to be handed off simply to clients.

  • Do I need a car?

    In most locations volunteers who deliver meals must drive their own cars. However, in some urban settings, delivery routes can be covered on foot or by using mass transit. Please ask your local Meals on Wheels program about transportation when you are setting up your volunteer assignments.

  • Will I always volunteer with the same clients?

    Typically, recurring volunteers can sign up for a set scheduled and delivery route, therefore allowing you to visit the same seniors on a regular basis. However, there is often a need to fill in open volunteer slots or to volunteer on different schedules which would result in different clients served on different days.

  • How many clients will I meet when I “do lunch?”

    That largely depends on the distance between deliveries. Volunteers in more rural settings typically see fewer clients in a single volunteer shift while those in urban areas can visit quickly with multiple clients living in close proximity to each other.

  • Can I volunteer at times other than lunch hour?

    Yes. Most local Meals on Wheels programs have the need for volunteers to fill a number of roles that can be done outside of the lunch hour and at varying locations. Please check in with your local program to see what exactly is available in your area.

  • Can I reschedule when something comes up?

    Schedules are typically flexible with appropriate notice. Once you’re connected with your local Meals on Wheels program, you’ll be able to work directly with them to manage your volunteer schedule.

Back to the Top

If you or someone you know is looking for meals, visit mealsonwheelsamerica.org