Food & Friends program gets needed lift from Meyer grant

A $100,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust will help Food & Friends, Meals on Wheels nutrition program for homebound seniors keep up with increasing demand. But donations of time and energy are still needed, officials said.

The capacity-building grant couldn't come at a better time, said Jane Whaley, development director for the program in Jackson and Josephine counties.

"Our senior population is growing and our meals served have increased by 10,000 each year for the past three years," Whaley said.

The two-year grant will provide $60,000 the first year and $40,000 the next. The money will help the nonprofit organization keep seniors fed and off a waiting list, she said.

"We've never had to do that before. And we don't want to," she said, adding she was grateful the Meyer board "saw the need for preventing hunger in our region."

The meals program provides more than nourishment for the body, Whaley said.

"It is a safety net," she said. "We are checking on isolated, homebound seniors who might otherwise not have any human contact all day long. Our (volunteer) drivers are often the first to notice health or safety concerns and forward them on to our staff."

The money will be used to increase hours of operation at the agency's four key sites — Ashland, Medford, Central Point and Grants Pass. It will also be used to purchase additional equipment and supplies, Whaley said.

The program has more than 300 volunteers working 56,000 hours providing 245,000 meals to more than 3,300 seniors in Jackson and Josephine counties. But more drivers are needed, she said.

"We need more drivers at most of our locations," said Whaley. "Typically, during summer, many of our regular volunteers go on vacation."

Also, with rising food costs, Food & Friends continues to need the financial support of the community, she said.

"We need donations," Whaley said. "This grant is specifically earmarked for capacity-building projects."

A $60 donation will help feed one senior couple for an entire month, she said. To help, call 664-6674 and ask for Whaley.

The Meyer Memorial Trust was created by the personal philanthropy of Fred G. Meyer and is in no way connected with Fred Meyer, Inc.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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