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Meals on Wheels director: Baby boomers more focused on hands-on experience with healthier foods
09072017 Meals
Brandy Palmero, manager of both the Meals on Wheels and Senior Life Center programs for Gainesville, shows off one of the bags used by volunteers to deliver lunch to more than 400 recipients in Hall County. Palmero recently attended the national Meals on Wheels convention in Denver. - photo by Carlos Galarza

More engaged and active baby boomers are eager to have a hands-on experience in customizing their diets.

That’s one of the trends picked up by Brandy Palmero — manager of a program that delivers meals to seniors in Hall County — after attending the annual Meals on Wheels convention held recently in Denver.

Palmero is eager to put into practice some of the ideas she brought back from the three-day event that drew almost 600 coordinators of the Meals on Wheels programs from coast to coast.

“They talked about the baby boomers coming up and how they want more hands-on,” Palmero said. “At one of the conferences they had an actual display, a cooking kitchen, and they had people from the audience come up and participate.”

Palmero said presenters introduced products that seniors or the general public are not familiar with to show how healthy and easy they are to prepare.

Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center that oversees activities for seniors and the Meals on Wheels program, said the Senior Life Center currently being expanded and renovated will have a teaching kitchen. The $1.5 million makeover of the senior center is one of many projects being funded by a special purpose local option sales tax approved by voters in 2015.

“Your more recent seniors  are more active and more engaged, and they don’t want to play bingo and sit down,” Moss said. “They want to be out and about, they want to travel, they want a higher level interaction. So, that’s going to increase the demand on (Palmero) and her staff to come up with ingenious and yet cost-efficient ways to keep younger, older adults entertained, educated and on point.”

Once the teaching kitchen is available, Moss said the plan is to invite local nutritionists, dietitians and chefs to come up with heart-healthy menus that are also economical.

“They’ll create recipes that then they’ll teach,” Moss said. “The idea behind our teaching kitchen is to diversify people’s diet and actually have them create recipes for meals that address their particular health issues.”

Palmero said the convention also focused on fundraising, marketing, and how to recruit and retain more volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program.

With 350 to 400 meals delivered each weekday, Palmero said volunteers are always needed.

“We serve more meals in four hours than most restaurants serve in a week,” Moss said.

Palmero said volunteers deliver eight to 16 meals during a shift that can go from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Volunteers may choose to help once a week and others once a month.

“That’s why we need so many,” Palmero said. “Things come up. We need more for backup.”

Meals are prepared off-site by a state contractor out of Habersham County that delivers them in bulk. Volunteers and staff then repackage the meals in deliverable individually wrapped containers.

To qualify for the program, you have to be 60 or older, have a disability or medical condition.

Palmero said there’s a waiting list because of the increased demand for services.

For more information on the Meals on Wheels program, call 770-503-3330.

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