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From menu to mealtime — how we feed our seniors


June 4, 2015

Preparing a meal in your own home is a fairly simple and quick process, but have you ever thought about the logistics of how we provide meals for our Meals on Wheels program?   It starts with menu planning.  Menus are planned several months in advance by our caterer, Iacofano’s, in conjunction with our nutrition staff.  The menus are reviewed by a dietician and adjusted as necessary to meet one-third of the daily minimum requirement for important nutrients, such as calories, fat, protein, and sodium.

When Iacofano’s is ready to begin implementing the menu, it orders raw food from its suppliers.  Generally, raw food is received at the Iacofano’s kitchen in West Columbia the day before meals are to be prepared.

Each day, Iacofano’s prepares approximately 350 hot meals on our behalf, and each week, they prepare about 300 frozen meals for us.  Hot food is placed in large trays and delivered to six different meal sites that we operate — two Meals on Wheels distribution sites and four senior centers.  At the two Meals on Wheels distribution sites, staff and volunteers scoop out the hot food and place it on individual serving trays, seal the tray with a covering, and place the individual trays into an oven to keep the food hot.  At the senior centers, staff scoops out hot food onto individual trays at lunchtime.  Frozen meals are delivered once a week to one of four Senior Resources locations for distribution.

With the hot and frozen meals, milk and bread are also delivered.  Volunteers, along with staff, deliver hot meals on a daily basis, and frozen meals on a weekly basis, to seniors.

Food safety is important in order to protect our seniors from food-borne illness.  The temperature of hot and cold food and beverages is taken before it leaves the Iacofano’s kitchen, and again upon delivery to our facilities.  After the food is delivered to our facility, the food is kept at the proper temperature to prevent the growth of bacteria.  The thermometers we use to monitor food temperature are periodically calibrated to ensure proper functioning.  The delivery routes for Meals on Wheels are designed to be completed within a time period that will maintain hot foods at the proper temperature.  If a route is too long, then the food becomes cooled and is not safe to eat without reheating.  Therefore, we are constantly reviewing and adjusting routes to ensure that hot food stays hot and cold food stays cold.

The end result is that a senior receives a nutritious meal that is healthy and safe to eat.  Shown here is a meal prepared by Iacofano’s, representative of the meals our seniors receive.  We have contracted with Iacofano’s for about nine months to provide our senior meals.  We receive many compliments about our meals, and with Iacofano’s (and our volunteers!) help we will continue providing a meal that looks good, smells good, tastes good, and is good to eat!

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