Buellton Senior Center Meals on Wheels: A lifeline for seniors | Judith Dale | Columnist

The Santa Ynez Valley can be proud of how it takes care of its seniors. Four organizations have been established to help meet the needs of older citizens in our Valley: Atterdag Village (formerly Solvang Lutheran Home) established in 1953; Buellton Senior Center, established in 1977; Solvang Senior Center, established in 1978; and People Helping People, established in 1992.

Research shows that home-delivered meal programs, such as Meals on Wheels, significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, reduce food insecurity and improve the quality of life for seniors receiving the meals. Older people living alone are twice as likely to have food and hunger issues compared to married seniors.

For many Meals on Wheels recipients, the person delivering the meal is often the only person they will see that day. This is vitally important, not only for the social interaction with the senior but for safety reasons too. Volunteers delivering meals are instructed to call the Buellton Senior Center immediately if the previous day’s meal has not been picked up.

Two weeks ago, this was the case.

After getting a call from the delivery volunteer, staff from the center went to the residence and knocked on the door. No one answered, and there was no response from knocking on the windows. The police were called to break into the house, where they found the 90-year-old resident dead. Who knows how long the individual would have gone undiscovered without the meal delivery.

In another example last year, an elderly man had fallen between the wall and a large piece of furniture. He was trapped and could not get up. If the person delivering his meal had not noticed that the previous day’s meal had not been picked up and reported it, he would not have been discovered.

As it turns out, Buellton Senior Center staff went over, knocked on the doors and windows, and the man was able to yell for help. The police came, broke in and the man was rescued. He had been lying there for over 30 hours. If not for the meal delivery, he would have remained trapped there undiscovered.

Not only are the Meals on Wheels program a safety program, but it is often the only social contact seniors have. Volunteers deliver the meals and often take a few moments to visit. This social interaction was critical during the COVID-19 pandemic when seniors were hesitant to go out in public. The delivery volunteers can keep a safe distance outside the door while visiting the seniors.

Forty percent of seniors say they are having trouble keeping socially connected and 1 in 4 seniors over 65 reported experiencing anxiety or depression during the pandemic.

In addition to the nutritional, social and safety needs, studies have shown that Meals on Wheels programs reduce government expenditures by reducing the need for seniors to use hospitals, nursing homes or other expensive community-based services. This is an important fact as 12,000 people turn 60 every day in the United States. Your support is needed to provide our seniors with the care they deserve.

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Meals on Wheels coordinator Merrill Clayton gets the Buellton Senior Center van loaded up with groceries and hot lunches to be delivered to local seniors.

On Thursday, March 17, the Buellton Senior Center will participate in the nationwide March for Meals to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Nutrition Program signed by President Nixon on March 22, 1972. Also, the march is designed to call attention to hunger in our Valley.

Each weekday, Buellton Senior Center volunteers deliver 372 meals to the homes of seniors in the Buellton and Los Alamos areas. In addition, the Buellton Senior Center has a daily farmers market where anyone in need of food can come to pick up fresh produce.

The public is invited to join all or part of the Buellton Senior Center’s March for Meals on March 17.

The march will start at the Buellton Post Office parking lot and end at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, for a total of 14 miles.

The march is broken into five parts:

  • 10 a.m. Buellton to Solvang Park (3.7 miles);
  • 11:30 a.m. Solvang Park to Holy Grounds Coffee Shop on Alamo Pintado (3.5 miles);
  • 1:15 p.m. Holy Grounds to Summerset Farms on Baseline Ave (4.4 miles);
  • 3 p.m. Summerset Farms to Dennee’s Interior Design in Santa Ynez (1.5 miles);
  • 3:45 p.m. Dennee’s to Maverick Saloon (.3 miles);
  • 4 p.m. Arrive at Maverick Saloon for a celebration with music by Bill Agin and Territorial Law and the option to purchase a $15 fried chicken dinner.

The general public is invited to the celebration. Times at each location are approximate. There will be refreshments at each stop. Participants can walk all or any part of the route.

For more information about the March for Meals event, call the center at 805-688-4571.

Last year, the Buellton Senior Center gave out over 2 million pounds of donated food in the bag and farmers market programs — all at no cost to the recipients. However, most Meals on Wheels food purchased is not free to the center.

As much as 73% of the Buellton Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels recipients are low-income and are on scholarship for their meals, and while food costs have gone up in addition to the need for food, the center has reported feeling a financial squeeze to meet a growing demand. 

In addition to the center’s Meals on Wheels Program, every Monday, it has a program that allows low-income people to drop off a bag by Friday. The center fills it with fresh produce and nonperishable food items. Over 500 people each week take advantage of this program.

Without public support, the Meals on Wheels program cannot continue at its present level as costs rise.

Please consider supporting the Meals on Wheels program by sponsoring a walker or donating directly to the Buellton Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels Program. The address to send a check is: P.O. Box 1946, Buellton, CA 93427.

All donations stay local and are tax-deductible. 

In future articles, I will cover the excellent programs and services at Atterdag Village, the Solvang Senior Center and People Helping People.

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Former mayor of Buellton, Judith Dale built her career in education and continues to serve the local community as Santa Barbara County 3rd District representative to the Library Advisory Board and board member of the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]






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