Free and Inexpensive Meal Delivery Options for Older Adults

Many older adults face difficulties accessing and preparing meals. Yet eating a nutritious diet is essential for maintaining health, particularly as we age.

Posted on December 10, 2022

For those with barriers getting to the grocery store and preparing food, meal delivery services can help. Meal delivery can support individuals to remain in their homes and live independently.

Local organizations distribute free or low-cost meals to older adults. Qualifying individuals can receive delivered meals for free from Medicaid and Medicare Advantage. Private companies also offer paid meal delivery.

Local Nonprofit Organizations

Community-based programs supply dinners to older adults who are homebound. The Older Americans Act (OAA) established support for Area Agencies on Aging, for example. These local nonprofits address the needs of older adults in the area and provide social and nutrition services.

Supporting these nonprofit organizations, the OAA funds meals and other services such as senior centers and transportation. Many senior centers also offer neighborhood meals, which in turn help in fostering social connections.

Meals on Wheels

The OAA also provides one-third of the funding for Meals on Wheels. With divisions nationwide, Meals on Wheels serves community members who have difficulty accessing meals because of physical limitations or financial constraints.

Volunteers deliver hot meals directly to individuals’ homes. In addition to providing food, they check on the clients. For many meal recipients, the meal delivery person becomes a friendly contact, lessening feelings of isolation.

Meals on Wheels reports that 40 percent of its clients live in poverty, and more than 20 percent are veterans. Most clients are adults aged 60 and older.

The cost is a sliding scale, depending on how much the recipient can pay. Those who cannot afford to pay can receive meals for free.

Although most clients are 60 and older, younger individuals can also get meals. However, they may be asked to contribute more financially than older adults.

Unlike enrolling in Medicare and Medicaid, people do not have to meet stringent requirements to enroll in Meals on Wheels. When facing high demand, however, the organization may prioritize homebound older adults over those who can visit senior centers and cafes.

Find a local Meals on Wheels provider on the Meals on Wheels America website.

Medicaid Benefit

Some individuals who qualify for Medicaid can receive food from a meal delivery company. Coverage for meal delivery is often part of the Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) program. Waiver programs that expand Medicaid access to individuals who might not otherwise qualify can also include food delivery services.

Medicare Advantage

Although traditional Medicare does not encompass meal services, select Medicare Advantage plans come with this benefit. These programs typically supply meal delivery coverage for a limited period following a hospital discharge.

Companies Providing Paid Senior Meal Delivery Services

Many companies offer meal delivery. Verywell Health evaluated the premade meal delivery options available to seniors. It named Freshly the most favored option overall, and Mom’s Meals the best value. Mom’s Meals offers a meal plan tailored to people with diabetes and another for those recovering from the hospital.

Speak with an elder law attorney to learn more about how to get free or low-cost meals to your home.

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