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Utah County city officials, mayors help deliver Meals on Wheels

By Ashtyn Asay - | Mar 25, 2022
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Michelle Johnston and Kurt Ostler visit with Gennadii Grebeniuk and Liudmila Chenina while delivering food through Meals on Wheels on Thursday, March 24, 2022.
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Michelle Johnston and Kurt Ostler deliver meals to Gennadii Grebeniuk and Liudmila Chenina on Thursday, March 24, 2022.
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Kurt Ostler and Michelle Johnston unload meals from a cooler Thursday, March 24, 2022.
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Michelle Johnston and Kurt Ostler pose while delivering food through Meals on Wheels on Thursday, March 24, 2022.

Twenty-four Utah County mayors and elected officials got a firsthand look at the Meals for Wheels program in their area this week as they accompanied volunteers drivers.

This effort was part of the 12th annual March for Meals Week, where mayors and city officials nationwide hand out Meals on Wheels to citizens.

Kurt Ostler, the mayor of Highland, accompanied Michelle Johnston on her typical delivery route. Johnston has volunteered with Meals for Wheels for 15 years and keeps coming back year after year because she enjoys serving her elderly neighbors.

“I enjoy visiting with the people,” Johnston said. “It’s a wellness check, and I like making sure that they’re OK.”

Ostler enjoyed being able to engage with older residents in the community. He listened to their input and answered their questions on local issues.

“I think it’s not only just for them to get a meal but also for that wellness check and even just the emotional aspect, just to show that someone cares, I think that’s one of the most important things,” Ostler said.

The final meal on Johnston and Ostler’s route was delivered to Gennadii Grebeniuk and Liudmila Chenina who immigrated to the United States from Russia three years ago. Although Grebeniuk and Chenina do not speak English, they expressed gratitude for the delivery of the meals.

Throughout Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties, Meals on Wheels delivers 700 meals to homebound seniors every weekday. Seventy percent of these meals are delivered by volunteers and the rest by paid delivery drivers. The program is locally administered by the Mountainland Association of Governments.

The meals are prepared each morning beginning at 2 a.m. by inmates in local jails, then distributed throughout the valley for pickup by 8 a.m. According to Mary Lucero, director of aging and family services at MAG, each meal is thoughtfully planned to meet a senior citizen’s nutritional requirements for the day.

“Everything is made fresh every single day,” Lucero said. “We work with a nutritionist so that the caloric intake and all their basic daily needs are met nutritionally. It’s a very well-thought-out process.”

Meals on Wheels heavily depends on donations, and due to funding constraints and more seniors becoming homebound due to COVID-19 there is currently a waitlist for the program for the first time in 10 years.

“The pandemic has introduced many of us to the newfound and harsh realities of food insecurity and social isolation — something that far too many seniors experience as their daily norm,” Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, said in a press release. “More than ever, we must rally around our essential community-based programs that serve as lifelines to a growing number of people in need, to enable their own long-term vitality.”


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