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Meals on Wheels, a necessity for some elderly disabled in Buffalo

WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley

A key fundraiser will be held for Meals on Wheels for Western New York Wednesday, September 25: the 10th annual "Plate Expectations 2013".  As WBFO's Eileen Buckley learned, the organization not only delivers meals to the region's elderly, but also to many disabled clients, some living in the City of Buffalo who rely on their daily meals.

It's mid-morning inside the Meals on Wheels Center on James E. Casey Drive in Buffalo and employees are busy preparing lunch and dinner for clients. 

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Inside Meals on Wheels on James E. Casey Drive in Buffalo where meals are prepared each day.

Some meals meet special dietary needs. Dieticians plan daily meals for those who have specific health issues, such as renal and diabetic.  

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Two Meals on Wheels workers smile and wave as they work to prepare meals.

"During the course of about an hour, close to 3,500 hot meals come off of this line," said Rachel Leidenfrost, director of strategic communications for Meals on Wheels.

Leidenfrost was handed two meals that she loaded into the trunk of her car, ready to deliver to two elderly disabled clients on the city's East Side.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Rachel Leidenfrost loads two meals into the trunk for deliver in Buffalo.

"Every homebound client, each day, gets a hot meal and a cold meal. So the hot meal and cold meal in combination will make up two-thirds of the recommended daily nutrients for the senior citizens that we are serving,"said Leidenfrost. 

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
75-year-old Ernestine Washington was lying in a hospital bed in her Buffalo home and relies on Meals on Wheels.

The first home we arrived at was off Sycamore Street.  Ernestine Washington, 75, was lying in a hospital bed in the front room of the home.

"Many clients are officially disabled -- you know they are homebound -- they are in bed on a permanent basis. They are in wheelchairs on a permanent basis. Many more of our clients have some degree of disability that is not officially diagnosed," said Leidenfrost.

After a hip replacement about five years ago, Washington took a fall and never recovered. She is no longer able to walk.  A health aid cares for her each morning but then Washington is alone, for the most part, until her daughter arrives home from work.   Meals on Wheels is a necessity.

"Before I got the Meals on Wheels I wasn't eating my dinner...and I wouldn't eat until 8'o'clock...I've gained weight," said Washington.

The nutritious meals have also boosted her overall health. Prior to receiving them, Washington's protein levels were very low. But now her doctor says he is pleased with her progress.

"I just had my  blood work done about two weeks ago and everything is right up on the mark," said Washington. 

Washington tells WBFO she enjoys the food.

"I do. I eat all my food," noted Washington. "I know they are going to give me what I need."   

But not only is the nutritious food important to Washington, those daily visits from the Meals on Wheels volunteer offers her needed assistance.

"Mr. Harris has come. He gave me water. My water was low, and because by me having a foley, I make sure my water intake is good," said Washington.

As Erie County continues experiencing a growing elderly population, Leidenfrost said the need for their services remains in high demand. 

"It is a tremendous need," said Leidenforst. "Last year we saw a five percent increases in meals being delivered."

Leidenfrost noted that the local Meals on Wheels is the second largest in the entire nation. 

"And what that means is that we need to find new and creative ways  to bring funds into the community", said Leidenfrost.

A second stop brought us to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority Frederick Douglass Towers on Jefferson Ave. Inside, Inez  Baxter open the door to her apartment from her wheelchair. Baxter is homebound and relies on the meals.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Inez Baxter is in a wheelchair in her apartment and relies on Meals on Wheels.

Baxter said without Meals on Wheels "it would be very hard" to buy food and prepare it. Baxter doesn't have the opportunity to leave her apartment very often. "My daughter takes me out sometimes on her days off," said Baxter.  

Wednesday's Meals on Wheels "Plate Expectations" is a one of reason why Baxter is able to keep receiving these important meals.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Meals are stacked up and ready for delivery.

"Really it is all about finding a compilation of ways to meet the needs, so we can make sure that no senior is going without proper nutrition," said Leidenfrost.

"Well I appreciate it. I thank them very much for it," said Baxter.