Introducing Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels has been serving the community for 53 years. They provide nutritious meals and social support to seniors, individuals with disabilities, and those recovering from illness, surgery or injury; assisting a healthy and independent lifestyle.
In late 2020, the team expanded their reach by establishing a satellite hub in the community of Harvey. As of January 18th 2021, 50 flash frozen meals per week have been picked up by Harvey and provided to 10 households in need in that community. The further development of the food security satellite program would ensure the sustainability and expansion of rural outreach by Meals on Wheels, which has the infrastructure for large scale meal preparation and distribution, and a Registered Dietician on staff.
Driven by the knowledge of the positive impact on people’s lives, and encouraged by the positive response from the Harvey Community, the team were keen to expand their pilot to additional communities. But as the spring call for funding proposals were announced, the team were overstretched and did not have the capacity to write a funding application.
The primary challenge Meals on Wheels has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic has been internal capacity. There are simply not enough financial or administrative resources to implement all of the programs that the Fredericton branch has the infrastructure for. Inspired by the testimonials that the Meals on Wheels team had shared, the research team offered to help write an application to expand the satellite program to two additional rural communities.
Our research team scoped the funding application during a one hour workshop session with the Executive Director of Meals on Wheels and proceeded to write the grant application after the scoping session. We aligned the project with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and integrated open source demographic data about the impacted rural communities that the food security rural satellite program would impact, as well as local data on food security and the impacts of social isolation in seniors to tell the story of why this program is needed and to tell the story concisely with the open data that is readily available.
The development of a food security satellite program to address food insecurity in rural communities aligns with UN SDG target 2.1, “By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.”.
There are a total of 6,564 seniors living in these rural communities surrounding Fredericton, 30% of whom are at risk becoming socially isolated according to the Ministers Responsible for Seniors (Healthy Aging Core). This means that there are approximately 2,200 seniors in the area who could benefit from the services of Meals on Wheels if a satellite program such as the one described in this application could be established and scaled.
Open data was used to enhance the story and understand the given problem that Meals on Wheels was addressing. By integrating concrete numbers and details about who the rural satellite program would reach, the application was better able to establish the presence of disparities for food security and social isolation within the identified rural communities and advocate for change through the development of Meals on Wheels satellite programs.
Meals On Wheels was able to receive full funding for the development of this outreach program, and stated that “Working with the Data Collaboration team and being a part of the Community Prosperity Hub has helped our organization better understand how we can use data to plan and measure our success. The Hub was very helpful in assisting us with a successful grant application securing funds for a project we feel is very important.”