In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed an Amendment to the Older Americans Act, creating a national nutrition program for senior citizens. That amendment paved the way for what is in place today: hot lunches for seniors at fixed locations like senior centers, and the home delivery of meals to seniors who can't get out.

The City of New Bedford operated the program in the early '70s before it was transferred to Coastline Elderly Services in 1982. Today, its nutrition program, including Meals on Wheels, produces 440,000 meals a year for seniors in the New Bedford area.

Coastline's Director of Development, Christine Sullivan, and Nutrition Program Director Philip Beard joined Townsquare Sunday this week to review the history of the program and why it is important to so many people.

Photo courtesy of Coastline
Photo courtesy of Coastline
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Sullivan said the nutrition program is doing a wonderful job now, but is always looking for ways to improve. Recipients are asked to fill out an annual satisfaction survey, sharing their thoughts on ways to make the program better. Last year, 70 percent of the responders said their program meal was their main meal of the day, and 80 percent of the responders rated the meals as "excellent" or "good."

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The program is funded through the Federal Older Americans Act and private donations. Coastline suggests a $2 voluntary donation for meals served at senior centers or home deliveries, but no one is denied a meal if they can't contribute.

Phil Beard has been part of the nutrition team at Coastline for 21 years. He said among the most important members of the team are the drivers who deliver meals and provide safety checks on those people who may be ill and can't leave their homes.

"In extreme situations, drivers find people on the floor, in need of assistance. We consider our drivers 'pre-first responders' because we are often on the scene before EMS," Beard said. 

Mayor Jon Mitchell and several city councilors will be celebrating 50 years of Meals on Wheels on March 22 at the Buttonwood Warming House.

The interview with Christine Sullivan and Philip Beard can be heard here:

Townsquare Sunday is a weekly public affairs program which airs Sunday morning at 6 and 11 a.m. on 1420 WBSM and 99.5 FM.

The program highlights individuals and organizations working to make Greater New Bedford a better place to live and work.

If you would like your organization featured on Townsquare Sunday, please e-mail the host at jim.phillips@townsquaremedia.com.

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