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Mobile Meals makes mealtime easier for area families

11/22/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Beth Tenda and her children — Angel, 8, Jordan, 6, and Michael, 5, shown above, from left — rely on Mobile Meals to deliver a food thickener that helps the children eat.
Staff member Vicki Dwyer is shown above as she loads a truck with meals for delivery at Mobile Meals.
Mobile Meals volunteers and staff provide delivery of hot or frozen meals to clients, as shown above.
Photos courtesy of Mobile Meals Inc.
GREATER AKRON — For Beth Tenda, mealtime with her three adopted special needs children is a lot easier thanks to Mobile Meals.

The Ellet resident said she has relied on Mobile Meals to deliver a thickening agent, which helps the three children swallow food, for about seven years.

“It has saved me from having to take my three children to pick up the boxes,” Tenda said. “They deliver right to the house, and with three special needs kids, it really is a plus. They all have ADHD, all have asthma, and two have feeding tubes. All of them have aspirating issues.”

The programs offered by Mobile Meals help many residents in addition to the Tendas. Phil Marcin, the agency’s development director, said about 2,500 meals and supplements are delivered daily to residents in Summit County, as well as Medina, Portage, Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain and Geauga counties.

When the organization was started by a group of doctors’ wives and members of the Summit County Medical Alliance in 1971, just five meals were delivered on the first day, Marcin said.  

“As time went on, it branched out from Summit to Portage counties, then from a strictly volunteer operation to where it had a paid staff with a director and paid drivers to assist volunteer delivery drivers,” he said. “And we used to do just hot meals, then we moved to frozen meals, therapeutic meals and nutritional supplements, such as Ensure or Pediasure.”

Today 80 staff members are assisted by 200 volunteers, Marcin added.

One stereotype that Mobile Meals officials want to address is that their services are only for the elderly.

“Our clients range from 4 months to 107 years, and everything in between,” Marcin said.

Also, clients are not always those who use the service longterm. The agency also provides meal service for those who need help for a short time, such as when recuperating from surgery, Marcin said.

Another misconception that many have with the program, Marcin said, is that the meals are free. There is a charge, but a majority of Mobile Meals clients qualify for financial help through programs such as PASSPORT.

“It doesn’t cost them a cent if they are 60 or above and meet certain financial requirements,” Marcin said. “The difficulty is for those between 18 and 59, people who are disabled. They are the hardest ones to find funds for. Most of the people we serve receive some type of assistance from us or government assistance.”

He added that 96 percent of people Mobile Meals serves are at 200 percent of the poverty line or below.

Clients can rely on Mobile Meals staff to help determine if they are eligible for government programs, Marcin said.

“If they need financial assistance, we do what we can to assist,” he said.

Since the beginning of Mobile Meals 2012 fiscal year last October, the agency has lost $470,000 in government funds, Marcin said. That has led the agency to work to develop a plan that will reduce its dependence on government funding in the future.

“We struggle every day to assist people calling our office for help — and we do the best we can,” Marcin said. “Last year, with the help of many throughout our community, we assisted 756 children and adults who were unable to pay the cost of their meals and supplements.”

The agency is in the midst of a fundraising campaign and also holds events such as golf outings to help raise money to help its clients in need. 

In addition to providing nutritious meals to its clients, Mobile Meals also serves as a way for some of its clients to receive one-on-one contact with others when food is delivered, Marcin said.

“Often their families like to have some security or safety check,” he said.

He added that those who receive hot meals get a daily visit between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Clients who receive frozen meals usually get a delivery once a week or every two weeks, Marcin said.

To become a Mobile Meals client, a person or their caregiver or family member may apply for services. Applications can be completed online at www.mobilemealsinc.com or by calling 330-376-7717. A case manager will speak with prospective clients to explain Mobile Meals’ services, determine eligibility and confirm the type of service needed and the appropriate meal plan. All information remains confidential, Marcin said.

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