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Friday, August 16, 2013

MIFA & Meals on Wheels

Week 17 - MIFA

The past few weeks/months have been very busy in my world as a VA Dietetic Intern.  Actually, it varies by Intern, as every rotation has different requirements and associated assignments, which may demand a few extra hours that week, or 10-20 hours more.  The latter category was starting to get tiring, in addition to putting in excess hours for research projects.  Just in time, a rotation week away from the VA!

The Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) was founded just after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr in Memphis, TN (1968).  This organization manages a number of different programs from emergency family services to Senior citizen assistance, including administration of Meals on Wheels.  Briefly, Meals on Wheels is a government-funded program that provides home-delivered and congregate meals 5-days per week to nutritionally at-risk individuals over age 60 years.  MIFA’s research and studies have shown that congregate and home-delivered meals benefit the community immensely.  It is estimated that there is a substantial 11% return on investment for these programs in a community.  Nutritional programs help seniors in need by reducing malnutrition, falls/fractures, and depression.  According to MIFA, last year they provided 447,967 meals to Seniors!

During this week, I had my first experience with Meals On Wheels and Senior Centers:

--One morning I helped prepare all 1300 home-delivered meals for that day:  I scooped 3 meatballs repeatedly for nearly 3 hours.  As boring as that may sound, it was actually a lot of fun working on the line with the other ladies, all of the speed, and all of the heat.  It was an early, sweaty morning!

--On two mornings, with 2 other female colleagues, I delivered meals in the community.  Insalubrious neighborhoods is an understatement.  The first house visit was, umm, sketchy, lest I say a bit scary.  Once I put on my no nonsense face and attitude at subsequent house deliveries, I was able to learn and observe.  Entering some of the houses, or merely the exchange at the front door, softened me up repeatedly seeing joyful faces.  There were some grumps, but gratefulness prevailed.

One of the half-condemned delivery homes/buildings.
Note: All of the windows are boarded up.  One home in
the middle is occupied by an extremely sweet older woman
in her 80s that is home-bound and grateful for meal delivery.
Overall, these two mornings gave a very interesting and eye-opening perspective.  It is so simple to become isolated in our own patch of life and land, easily putting out of one’s mind the nature of others.  I’d say we do this to protect ourselves.  We don’t think about the person that continues to live in a building that is half-condemned, has no family, cannot easily leave the home, and subsists on one meal per day from Meals on Wheels.  Frankly, it puts one more at ease to not think about these individuals.  We have bounties in our pantries and are rarely, if ever, concerned of food insecurity.  I am not objectifying any one person; I am guilty of this daily.  These week was a healthy reminder of my life’s fortunes.

I also visited several Senior Centers where meals are served for a nominal amount to more mobile older adults (“congregate meals”).  On one occasion I was tasked with delivering a brief nutrition education message to the group; I picked my favorite topic, FIBER! J  (More fiberlicious details below! J)
One of the Senior Center participants after my fiber talk...
I think he needs more fiber! :)
With fellow Dietetic Intern, Deidra, at a Senior Center

 NOTE:  Both of these photos were taken by a Senior Center participant while we visited, then later mailed to MIFA with a "Thank you, please visit us again!" note.  Pure sweetness.

Painted on a building across from the building above.

Nutrition tidbits
Fiber intake is one of the most deficient areas in the American diet.  Recommended intakes are ~25 g for females, and ~35 g for men; however the average American only takes in 10-14 g per day.  Blasphemous!
Best sources of fiber?  Whole grains (oatmeal, barley, bulgur, farro, brown rice…) & legumes (beans, peas)!  Other good sources include fruits and vegetables.  (ONLY plant materials!)
Why should you eat more fiber?  Stay “regular” and prevent constipation; protection against colon cancer and diverticulosis, and may help protect against diabetes, certain other cancers, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases.
If you increase fiber intake, it is extremely important to do so slowly, and to increase water intake!


  1. another good post Jessie I am always inspired by the things you write about. You have sent your mom to college.

    1. Thank you, Mom! I am so glad to share my experiences with you and others, enabling us all to see different facets of life with which we would not normally be involved. Love you!