Meals on Wheels America grants and local funds help VAC purchase new equipment

Voluntary Action Center of Northern Illinois recently received grants and additional local funds to help buy new vehicles and supplies for the Meals on Wheels program in four counties.

Meals on Wheels America awarded VAC a COVID-19 Response Fund Emergency Grant for High Risk States this summer. “We received $20,000 to purchase a meal delivery vehicle for use in our La Salle County program,” said grants manager Leah Jordal. “In addition, we received $25,000 from a Meals on Wheels America Go Further Fund Building Capacity Grant to purchase several items for both the DeKalb and La Salle programs. These include an Oliver meal packaging system including two sealer machines, trays and film, an electric can opener and a commercial chest freezer, as well as additional delivery supplies. We need new thermal bags, insulated padding and heat stones,” Jordal said.

The need for the Meals on Wheels service has increased by 60% this last year in DeKalb, La Salle, Putnam, and Bureau counties because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jordal said during the past year, VAC delivered 242,713 meals to 1,557 individuals. With funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and Family First Coronavirus Response Act, VAC was able to start services to an additional 277 individuals who were on a waiting list. These seniors represent a highly vulnerable population and are at greater risk of functional impairment, social isolation and institutionalization. The isolation caused by the pandemic puts these seniors at even greater risk.

VAC eliminated the waiting list for services, but that brought new challenges in delivering meals to these additional individuals. “Three of the vehicles used for transporting and delivery were in bad shape, all of them over 12 years old with very high mileage,” Jordal said. “We are seeing frequent breakdowns and vehicle repairs. It is expensive and cumbersome to get a loaner vehicle while the broken-down vehicle is getting repaired, and the repairs are getting more costly as the vehicles continue to age and put more miles on. It’s to the point that the vehicles are pushing being fixed beyond repair. If one of these vehicles breaks down permanently, this could affect the meal delivery of 50 individuals,” Jordal said.

The additional funds provide by these two grants will allow VAC to sustain the current level at service to 917 clients weekly and to expand meal service to include frozen meals. In addition, VAC hopes to serve an additional 10 more clients a week.

Additional funders in DeKalb County helped VAC purchase a new Hot Shot meal delivery vehicle for VAC’s northern nutrition program. These benefactors include the DeKalb County Community Foundation, The Alfred Bersted Foundation, Bank of America, N.A. Trustee, the 3M Foundation, Ideal Industries Foundation and the Dutton family. Each of these are being recognized with logos displayed on the new vehicle.

VAC is committed to providing high-quality services that address the basic transportation and nutrition needs of its community. Incorporated in 1974, VAC supports communities in DeKalb, Bureau, La Salle, Kendall and Putnam counties. While those needs have grown exponentially through the years, VAC remains committed to helping to ensure the health and wellness of those in need.

For information about VAC, its services, and opportunities, visit online at vacdk.com/ or call 815-758-3932.