Health: Meals on Wheels — a success story

The Story:

In a world where the news so often focuses in failure, it is well to speak once in a while of a public health success. One success is the “Meals on Wheels” program, begun almost eighty years ago, in wartime Britain. It was a program to deliver meals to those who could no longer prepare food for themselves, initially run by the Women’s Volunteer Service for Civil Defense. The idea caught on and spread around the world — Meals on Wheels programs now exist everywhere, generally organized and operated at a very local level. And they work splendidly.


The first home-delivered meal program in the United States began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in January of 1954. Run by Margeret Toy, it provided nourishment that met the needs in particular of homebound seniors.

Spin-off programs have served specialized dietetic needs, such as “Kosher Meals on Wheels.”

More than 2.4 million people over 60 years old in the United States receive Meals on Wheels delivery.

In Pill Form:

A review of the impact of such programs, prepared in 2013, shows that regular, properly prepared home-delivered meals significantly improve the health, physical and mental, of recipients. They have a salutary psychological effect through socialization opportunities, and the mitigation of the sense of isolation.


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