Meals on Wheels helps seniors in need in North County


About a year ago when he got in a motorcycle accident near Bakersfield, Noel Tibbals found his life changed.

The 70-year-old Encinitas man who once regularly rode waves suffered serious injuries, mainly to his legs. This resulted in surgery, weeks of rehabilitation and difficulty performing simple, everyday tasks like going to the grocery store for food.

He began relying on Meals on Wheels for help.

“I’m more mobile than I had been, but it’s still nice having this service,” he said, adding he expects surgeries in the future that could render him immobile for months.

“It’s nice having the food come in.”

Meals on Wheels San Diego County, which has been around for nearly six decades, hosted Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear on March 22 to show her the organization’s mission.

Five days a week, the nonprofit delivers hot and cold meals, up to two a day, to people 60 and over who request the services. The standard fee is $7 for two meals, or $4 for one, but there are fee reductions for those who are struggling financially, said Charlotte Fan, North County Service Center manager for Meals on Wheels San Diego County.

Boxed lunches are freshly prepared by the organization’s kitchen, and other meals are delivered from Langlois Frozen Foods in Laguna Beach.

Of the organization’s 15 routes, six are in Encinitas. Each route, on average, can have between eight and 20 stops.

The City of Encinitas, through federal Community Development Block Grant Programs, provides some funding to assist Meals on Wheels.

Fan said the organization relies on the money, especially because the number of people needing its services is growing. About 35,000 meals are served monthly in San Diego County, with one-third being in North County. About 500 individuals are served in North County, compared to under 300 individuals three years ago, Fan said.

The funding is currently being threatened by the federal government, with a proposed cut of $6.2 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, $3 billion of which currently funds the Community Development Block Grant programs, a portion of which goes to Meal on Wheels, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“I’ll be really unhappy if the federal government cuts funding for this important program for local, needy people,” Blakespear said. “For some elderly people in Encinitas, the meal delivered by this great local organization is the only human contact they have all day. They fill gaps that we sometimes don’t think about for isolated people.”

According to Meals on Wheels America, one in six seniors struggle with hunger, and one in four live alone.

Fan said Meals on Wheels is grateful for the city’s support but worries about how the organization will be impacted if that funding is cut.

The goal, she said, is to continue with the services to meet the needs of the growing number of seniors who needs it.

People like Larry Landos, who has been battling prostate cancer, rely on Meals on Wheels.

“It’s very valuable to me, because I was accustomed to being able to help myself, and then all of a sudden I couldn’t,” said the 69-year-old Encinitas resident. “I thought this was for people much older than me, but if you get a bad disease, it happens.”

Kathy Brown, 87, who gets meals delivered regularly, said she enjoys the company of her visitors five days a week.

She said if it wasn’t for the service, she “wouldn’t get to eat as much” because much of her family isn’t around anymore.

Linda Britton, who has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels of San Diego County for about two decades, said sometimes the volunteers are the only people these people will talk to all day.

“A lot of them are just all alone, and maybe for days, no one ever says hi to them,” she said. “So you’re maybe the only person in a day to talk to them, and it makes us feel good, too.”

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