‘Exceptional Women’ showcases the impact of Meals on Wheels

Deb McLean (left) of Somerville Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) recently appeared with Sue Tabb (right) on the Exceptional Women podcast at Magic 106.7. McLean is the Nutrition Programs Director at SCES and was in-studio to discuss the health and social benefits of meals programs. COURTESY PHOTO

The social and health benefits of Meals on Wheels were recently featured on the Magic 106.7 podcast, Exceptional Women.

The episode featured Deb McLean, who is Nutrition Programs Director at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES). Speaking on behalf of a consortium of 27 agencies that provide Meals on Wheels across Massachusetts, McLean said the program plays a vital role in combatting malnutrition and food insecurity.

“We have people who tell us if it wasn’t for the program they wouldn’t have enough food

, because they have to pay electricity and other bills,” said McLean. “Malnutrition is a huge part of why seniors end up with diseases and chronic illness.”

Meals on Wheels served more than 9 million meals to roughly 75,000 older adults in Massachusetts last year. Roughly a third of those clients report that they would otherwise face food shortages.

“That number shocked me,” said Exceptional Women host Sue Tabb.

Meals on Wheels is funded through the Older Americans Act, which supports a wide range of in-home and community-based services. McLean described Meals on Wheels as cost effective, noting it costs $1,851 per year, per client. Conversely, a one-day hospital visit for malnutrition costs $3,000, and a 10-day stay in a nursing home is $4,000.

“We want to help seniors remain in their homes, if that’s what they choose,” said McLean. “So we try to provide services to help them do that.”

Meals on Wheels providers regularly conduct satisfaction surveys. In the most recent survey, 83 percent of respondents said the program helps them maintain independence, and 78 percent said the regular visits from the driver make them feel less lonely.

“Our drivers are key in combatting isolation; sometimes they’re the only person the client sees all day,” said McLean.

The meal delivery also serves as a wellness check, and the drivers will contact the client’s case manager or emergency help if there is a problem, explained McLean.

The discussion also touched on other nutrition programs and hospital-to-home services provided by SCES. McLean has been with the agency more than 15 years, adding she chose that field because of the mission.

“I think what I’m hearing, and you’re probably too humble to say this, but you’re directly impacting the quality of people’s lives,” said Tabb.

“I hope so,” said McLean. “I try.”

Exceptional Women is an award-winning podcast that has put a spotlight on nearly 600 women who do inspiring work. It airs Sunday mornings at 7:30 on Magic 106.7, and is available at the station website.

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. For more information, visit eldercare.org, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact the SCES Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601 for free advice and guidance.