It’s not often that we can make a major program change that improves quality and saves money at the same time, but this is exactly what we are accomplishing with the introduction of Savory Selects meals for our meals-on-wheels program.
Savory Selects, developed by the Derringer Company in Cincinnati, is a line of frozen meals created specifically for meals-on-wheels. This means that each meal meets all of the nutrition requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture for senior meal programs, such as low sodium, a diabetic dessert alternative, and one third of the vitamins and minerals USDA requires for a healthy well balanced meal.
This is a good thing because nearly 90% of the older adults receiving meals-on-wheels state that this is their main meal of the day.
One of our Clermont Senior Services’ drivers picks up the meals each day at the Derringer Company’s facility in Cincinnati and brings the meals to our distribution kitchen near Williamsburg for final preparation to be sorted by route for delivery throughout the county. This will continue to be done as we implement use of the Savory Select meal product. Each year we deliver over 100,000 meals, serving 700 to 1,000 older adults. Some are on the program for a short time while they recuperate from an illness or surgery, while others remain on the program for a long time because of declining health.
All must be assessed as needing meals-on-wheels, with no one available who can conveniently prepare meals for them.
We will be introducing Savory Selects on several routes in early April and steadily expand the service to all routes in the county by the end of May. The nice thing about the Savory Selects line of meals is that there are 31 different meals to choose from. Each customer (and we do like to think of each person as a customer who expects quality service) will submit his or her menu selections each week for delivery the following week.
Customers will be able to choose their favorite meals from the 31 menu choices. Don’t like fish? Not a problem. Skip the fish and choose something you like better, like meatloaf and gravy, baked chicken with herb dressing, or spaghetti and meatballs. There are even several vegetarian selections.
Two added benefits of Savory Selects weekly delivery is that customers won’t have to be as concerned about missing the meal driver because of a doctor appointment, and they will be able to heat and eat the meal anytime they want to. The meals are designed to be heated in the microwave and the instructions are clearly marked on each package.
When I tell people about the Savory Selects meal program the first question almost everyone asks is, “But what about the older people who need to be seen everyday?” It’s true some of the older adults we serve are extremely frail and have no one to check on them each day. In a few cases the driver even has to heat the meal for the older person at the time of delivery.
All of these individuals will continue to receive daily delivery to provide a daily safety check. If a person is receiving weekly delivery and his or her health status changes requiring a daily check, that person will be switched to daily delivery.
Those receiving daily delivery will also receive a Savory Selects meal, but it will be the “meal du jour” rather than customer choice.
So where does the savings come in? By delivering a full week’s supply of Savory Selects meals one time each week we are able to reduce paid hours to deliver meals, as well as save on the cost of gasoline and other expenses to operate meal delivery vehicles, not to mention the periodic cost to replace those vehicles. These cost savings are especially good news, as revenues to provide meals-on-wheels and other services have declined over the last two years.
Changing to the Savory Selects meal program is affecting people’s lives. Customers who have previously received daily service will miss that brief cheery hello from the driver each day, and staff hours are being reduced for some of our kitchen staff and meal drivers. But given these economic times we have no choice.
As I recently shared in a planning meeting with staff, the tax payers of Clermont County are also being affected by this change, but in a nice way. We are saving money for Clermont County taxpayers by making the wisest possible use of their Senior Services Levy dollars, plus their state and federal tax dollars that we receive to help pay for the meals-on-wheels program. I know this is exactly what the taxpayers expect.
Volunteer drivers have always been an important part of our meals-on-wheels program and the introduction of Savory Selects meals will actually allow us to increase the use of volunteers. Most volunteers deliver meals one day each week. Typically, we plan volunteer routes to be about an hour to an hour and a half long. Volunteers use their own vehicles and we provide mileage reimbursement. Many volunteers do not claim mileage reimbursement, but this may change as gas prices rise. We encourage meal volunteers to check on their customers in person or by phone between delivery dates, if they have time to do so, but this is not required. At this time we especially need volunteer drivers in the Amelia, Bethel, Eastgate, and Milford areas. Another volunteer opportunity is to be a friendly visitor/shopper for any older person who is homebound. This is similar to being a meal volunteer, but the primary task is grocery shopping, which can be at your convenience. For information about all volunteer opportunities with Clermont Senior services give us a call at (513) 724-1255.