Each weekday, there is a buzz of activity in the kitchen at the Rocky Mountain Development Council’s Neighborhood Center in downtown Helena. Staff members prepare hundreds of meals that go out to seniors around the Helena Valley through the Meals On Wheels program.
But during the week before Thanksgiving, there was even more work to be done. Rocky is closed on Thursday and Friday, so they needed to work ahead to make sure their clients had the meals they count on over the long holiday weekend.
“We spend a couple of weeks ahead of time planning and prepping and preparing the food,” said Kim Howard, Rocky’s kitchen manager.
Howard said they recently began freezing meals ahead of time, so clients can have meals to cover the closure. Delivery drivers brought the extra meals earlier in the week, and people were able to eat them whenever they were ready.
Rocky’s nutrition program typically provides more than 600 meals a day, to Meals on Wheels clients, visitors to community senior centers and students and teachers at the Head Start program. A nutritionist puts together the daily menus, to ensure they’re well-balanced. On Wednesday, the meal included pork chops, mashed potatoes, braised cabbage with bacon and baked apples with cranberries.
Rocky had already offered its Meals on Wheels and other clients a traditional Thanksgiving meal last week, with turkey and all the classic side dishes. Howard said they decided to do it early because of the additional preparation it requires – and because of the additional work they already had to do this week to get the extra meals out.
“We have a small kitchen; we have just six burners and a few ovens to do all this in, so coming up with a turkey dinner for 500 takes a lot of planning and prep,” she said.
The Meals on Wheels program serves people ages 60 and over who are homebound or have difficulty preparing their own meals.
“This is a well-balanced meal that they get – most of these clients, this is their only meal they get,” said Shauna Donaldson, the nutrition program manager. “Getting these meals – that’s able to keep them in their homes, where they want to be, as well as a good welfare check.”
Leaders say it’s a service they’re proud to provide, especially at this time of year.
“It’s a very rewarding job,” said Donaldson. “You know that you’re helping the people of your community sometimes those people that don’t have anybody else around, no family, friends that live close by. We get to see those people, and they become like family to us.”
You can find more information about the Meals on Wheels program at Rocky’s website (https://www.rmdc.net/what-we-do/senior-services/senior-nutrition/meals-on-wheels.html
- Reported by Jonathon Ambarian