For the more than 4,000 homebound senior citizens in Dallas County who depend on the Meals on Wheels program, a hot meal still lands on the table every day. But what if the wheels come to a halt?

"If we don't get to these folks and feed them both spiritually, emotionally and nutritionally, then I don't know what will happen," said Jennifer Atwood, managing director of marketing and communications for VNA's Meals on Wheels.

Thankfully, Atwood and other Meals on Wheels leaders are delivering a solution.

With each daily meal delivery, volunteers are handing out boxes of shelf-stable meals. Included in the box are items that have a long shelf life like canned soup, peanut butter and hot chocolate.

Most seniors already have one of these boxes in their pantry, but because of COVID-19, they're getting more.

Hot meals are still being delivered as usual. The shelf-stable meals will only be used if delivery is shut down and volunteers cannot provide a hot meal.

Atwood says, although nutritional needs may be met, it's important to meet the emotional needs of the seniors as well.

"Oftentimes our volunteers and staff are the only people they might see during the day so we're not only battling food insecurity, we're battling isolation," she said. 

To fight that, volunteers have an app on their phones that allows them to call, chat and check to keep the seniors emotionally fed.

"We have a very generous spirit here, and I know that we will do everything we can to take care of the seniors in our community," Atwood said.

Volunteers will continue delivering shelf-stable meals along with their regular deliveries this week in order to prepare for the worst, although Atwood hopes that won't be necessary.

"We'll do what we have to do, but I hope we can keep doing this."

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