New system, same goal

Meal delivery keeps on truckin' at Forest Grove Senior Center
by: Chase Allgood,

Three weeks ago, the Meals on Wheels program in Forest Grove changed drivers after the Washington County Board of Commissioners gave the contract to Loaves and Fishes a non-profit organization already serving meals in Washington, Multnomah and Clark counties.

The decision created some big changes for the host of volunteers who pack and deliver the meals. Some still prefer the old system, which was run by the Forest Grove Senior Center, while others see the benefits of new management.

Loaves and Fishes, assumed managerial responsibilities for Forest Grove Senior Center's Meals on Wheels program, conforming the program to others that they operate in the area.

'We do things equally as well,' said Lucy Warren, Senior Center director. 'We just do things a little differently.'

For example, the free lunches Loaves and Fishes serves at the center, 2037 Douglas St., now feature two hot entrees on weekdays instead of one, giving seniors more choices and more variety.

For the boxed delivered lunches, the process of getting the meals to the seniors has changed quite a bit.

First, the volunteer packers aim to deliver hotter meals by waiting until their drivers to arrive before packaging meals. For the long routes, each meal is wrapped in aluminum foil. 'The food is being temperature checked,' said veteran packer Alberta Peterson. 'It's a good thing.'

Then, drivers pick up the meals and go, checking their books to match each meal to each senior on their route. Before, each box was labeled by the packers. Now, a driver's book will tell him or her whether a person's diet is 'soft,' 'regular,' or 'diabetic.' Then, he or she will pull the right cold products out of the cooler and match them to the right hot lunch.

The process lightens the load for the packers, but increases it for drivers.

Overall, though, it's often more about the relationships than the food, said Ellen Thies, a retiree who has been delivering meals for 13 years. 'If I don't happen to drive, the next time they ask where I was,' said Thies, who drives her Cornelius route almost every Tuesday. 'We get in a real close relationship.'