Home Senior Resources Who Qualifies for Meals on Wheels?

Who Qualifies for Meals on Wheels?

by Derrick

The U.S. population is rapidly aging. There are more than 46 million U.S. citizens aged 65 or older. By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be 65 or older. By 2050, the number will be almost 90 million! The in demographics comes with a profound impact on social services that serve seniors. Many of these people will qualify for Meals on Wheels.

qualifies for meals on wheels
Meals on Wheels at Great Falls Community Food Bank.

What is Meals on Wheels?

Meals on Wheels is a program that delivers hot, nutritious meals to individuals – often home-bound individuals – who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals at home. The federal Older Americans Act, which created the Administration on Aging, provides the bulk of the funding for the program (55 to 60%). The rest is made up through a variety of sources including the United Way, local governments, and donations.

The meals are prepared in a variety of locations. Sometimes it’s Area Agencies on Aging who operate their own kitchens. Other times it’s for-profit meal preparation businesses doing the work under a contract. The program specifics differ depending on the locale. There is no identical program.

Related: How much do Meals on Wheels cost?

Drivers, some volunteers and others paid, deliver the hot meals directly to the homes of qualified individuals. The individuals are – after all – homebound. This delivery has another benefit – the drivers provide are another set of eyes and ears that can check in on vulnerable elders. They can report back on issues they see or needs they’re made aware of. It’s truly a wonderful program!

What is Are the Meals Like?

All of the meals and ingredients are prepared in local kitchens. They are packaged and delivered to the qualifying individual on the same day. The meals are transported in insulated bags, boxes, or even special vehicles designed to keep the contents heated. Deliveries are generally Monday through Friday. Fridays often include frozen meals to get individuals through the weekend. Those frozen meals also serve as a “back up” meal should something – like a blizzard – prevent a driver from getting to the home on a given day.

All meals are prepared with the goal of meeting one-third of the recommended daily dietary allowance of a typical elder. In many case, they can even meet individuals’ specific dietary needs or restrictions.

Who Qualifies for Meals on Wheels?

To qualify for Meals on Wheels, an individual must be:

  • 60 years or older
  • disabled
  • homebound, and
  • without a caregiver able to assist with meal preparation.

The eligible person’s spouse, or disabled person who relies on the individual for care, may also qualify. Some agencies might have other restrictions – or other exceptions. The terms and conditions may vary.

Unfortunately, the demand for Meals on Wheels is great. Agencies often have a waiting list. So, if you think you or your loved one needs Meals on Wheels, apply sooner rather than later.

How to Apply for Meals on Wheels

Because there is no single point of entry to getting into a Meals on Wheels program, you have to contact sources in your community. They can help you determine how to enroll in the program. To find out what is available in your area, go to our Senior Resources by State page. Click on your state and locate the Area Agency on Aging serving your area. They will be able to guide you toward the assistance you need.

16 comments

Carol Moyer September 15, 2022 - 4:18 am

I am 85, can drive, but cannot go shopping for groceries, and drive thrus do not conform to my digestive tract. I sometimes get donations from a neighbor, but I cannot get around or clean house, etc. I can take care of my basic needs and I have a small dog and cat(both 11-12 yrs old) which I take care of. I do have a person(my gardener)who brings in my mail, sometimes assists me with small things, but he has an elderly disabled mother that he takes care of.

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Bennie Britt May 21, 2022 - 5:57 pm

I am 45years old in Indiana and I’m disabled and I depends on my family to take care of me. Am I eligible to receive it?

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Derrick May 22, 2022 - 6:31 am

Probably not, but it’s possible the agency in your area has some grant funds to make exceptions to the traditional qualifications. You’ll have to call and find out.

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Deborah Ketcham May 4, 2022 - 11:37 am

My uncle is almost 80 and is beginning dementia. He forgets to eat frequently, I work and I can’t check on him 24/7. Does he qualify for the meal program?

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Derrick May 4, 2022 - 2:07 pm

I am reluctant to answer individual eligibility questions. You will have to check with your Area Agency on Aging.

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Tracy Barrett April 21, 2022 - 1:32 pm

I am not 60 but I am homebound I have a lung desiese I’ve been in and out of the hospital the last couple months I can’t cook for myself do I qualify for meals on wheels?

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Derrick April 22, 2022 - 7:53 pm

Probably not, but each area may have different offerings. For example, the program I ran had conventional funding for the standard program but we also had United Way money to support MOW for people who were recently discharged from the hospital. You really need to call your Area Agency on Aging to find out.

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Susan Johns March 23, 2022 - 6:59 pm

Hi was interested in the meals I’m 60 and disabled but not home bound I’m a diabetic and really need some nutritional food hope you can help me or lead me in the right direction

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Derrick March 25, 2022 - 10:28 am

Hi, Susan. You should check with your area agency on aging. You can find it by going to the “State Resources” page on our website and click your way to your state and county.

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Mary Ellersick March 18, 2022 - 10:26 pm

I’m almost 62 and disabled but not homebound would I qualify

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Derrick March 21, 2022 - 6:30 pm

Usually not, but you may be able to buy deliveries.

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Robin March 28, 2022 - 12:32 am

Hi,I have friends my age 68 that live in Meigs and McMinn counties in TN.they recieve frozen congrent meals
.I called to see if my husband which is disabled and I could receive them and was told no..The friends that recieve them are not disabled and have no problem with recieving them.Is there difference in counties?

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Derrick March 28, 2022 - 3:55 pm

Probably not. Do they live in congregate housing?

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Ruth Weimer January 19, 2022 - 6:35 pm

I am interested in receiving meals

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Maggie Shelton January 18, 2022 - 3:01 pm

I’m disabled,and I would like to know how can I apply for meals on wheels!!!

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Derrick January 18, 2022 - 7:16 pm

Please see our Resources by State page (in the sidebar) and find the Area Agency on Aging serving the county in your state.

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