Meals on Wheels, Salvation Army team up for Thanksgiving

Low donations result in unprecedented Wheels waiting list
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Community Thanksgiving Dinner

When: Noon to 2 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 22

Where: Placer Building, Gold Country Fairgrounds,  1273 High St., Auburn

Cost: Free

For meal delivery: Call (530) 888-1303

Donations: Make check payable to the Salvation Army and specify Thanksgiving Dinner, P.O. Box 4088, Auburn 95604

Outside of Auburn: For Thanksgiving meal delivery in Roseville, Rocklin, Penryn, Loomis, Lincoln and Granite Bay, call the Salvation Army at (916) 784-3382

The service Meals on Wheels provides for Thanksgiving is bittersweet – on one hand, it provides a hot meal to someone in need; on the other, it means that person could be alone for the holiday, said Karyn Engbrecht-Maynard of Seniors First in Placer County.

“Someone is going to go out and give them a hug, a meal and wish them happy Thanksgiving,” Engbrecht-Maynard said.  

As is tradition, Meals on Wheels will team with volunteers from the Salvation Army to deliver dinners to the homes of those who otherwise might go hungry. Last year, about 25 drivers distributed more than 300 meals to the homebound in Auburn, said Delona Archer, who helps coordinate the turkey-day cooperative.

This year, little more than 100 have signed up for the service already, and Auburn-area residents can still order a home-delivered Thanksgiving meal by calling (530) 888-1303 until 5 p.m. Wednesday, Archer said.

Although they expect to be able to meet the demand on the holiday, the area Meals on Wheels is struggling to keep up with the need for its service on a daily basis, said Engbrecht-Maynard.

The waiting list is 60-people long for Placer County, she said.

“(Seniors First Executive Director) Candace (Roeder) said she has never seen a waiting list like this. This is pretty, pretty unsettling for her,” Engbrecht-Maynard said. “A year ago, she said it maybe would have been around half. Five years ago – no waiting list. People were put on immediately.”

The economic downturn has resulted in decreased donations to Seniors First, she said. Demand has also increased because of changing family dynamics that result in seniors being left behind without the same support system, she added.

A national study of older Americans released Nov. 5 found that “those who have limited mobility and low physical activity – scientifically categorized as ‘frail’ – are five times more likely to report that they often don’t have enough to eat … than older adults who were not frail,” according to a press release. It may be difficult for frail adults to leave the house and access fresh fruits and vegetables, according to the release.

More than 20 percent of Americans are expected to be older than 65 by 2030, and strategies to decrease the prevalence and consequences of frailty are needed, Oregon State University epidemiologist Ellen Smit said in the release.

For the region covering Auburn, Colfax and Meadow Vista, Meals on Wheels serves 28 clients a hot meal that covers a third of a senior’s daily nutritional allowance Monday through Friday, Engbrecht-Maynard said. It has 55 more clients among Roseville, Rocklin, Loomis, Penryn, Granite Bay and Lincoln, she said.

People can remain on the waiting list for months, because once someone starts receiving the service, it typically only stops if their living situation changes, Engbrecht-Maynard said.

“Those people are wondering where their meals are going to come from, and they’re not able to get out often. They can’t shop,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking for us. We are unable to feed them.”

People are often identified for Meals on Wheels by neighbors who notice “that a senior is not getting out, or looks pretty emaciated, or is really depressed,” Engbrecht-Maynard said.

Meals on Wheels is a free service, thought it includes an envelope for an optional donation.

“I have had many of the meals,” she said. “Some of them are darn good, and some of them aren’t so good. They vary, but for the most part it is very nutritious, it is very palatable, and, if they’re hungry, it’s a  godsend.”

For more information on Placer County’s Meals on Wheels, visit


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews