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'How are you doing?' Drivers for the Meals on Wheels program in KRV provide more than just food

Meals on Wheels is part of Kern County's Senior nutrition program, which provides free meals to those over 60. The staff in Lake Isabella provides roughly 200 meals to the community every weekday.
Posted at 11:15 AM, Jun 27, 2024

LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KERO) — The Meals on Wheels program provides free meals to seniors all across the Kern River Valley. For some of the drivers that deliver these meals – it’s more than just a job.

  • 23ABC News was told by an employee that they are no longer accepting new clients into the Meals on Wheels program. Instead, they are put into a program where a contractor, Revolution Foods, delivers frozen meals on a less frequent basis.
  • Route 4 covers the areas of South Lake, Weldon and Onyx. Driver Jeff says to deliver to all the clients on this route, he drives an average of 68 miles. per day.


The Meals on Wheels program provides free meals to seniors all across the Kern River Valley. For some of the drivers that deliver these meals – it’s more than just a job.

The Lake Isabella Senior Center is the heart of the Senior Nutrition Program - the prep work for cook Anthony Ruiz starts at 6:30 am.

“It’s quite rewarding, honestly,” Ruiz said.

He and one other cook are responsible for cooking roughly 200 meals every weekday for the program - on the menu for the day, chicken pasta.

“I used ten pounds of the pasta, 40 pounds of the chickens, about 24 pounds of caribbean blend vegetables, 40 pounds of spinach”

If the workers at the senior center are the heart of the program, the drivers are the veins.

For seniors unable to come in and pick up their lunches - the Meals on Wheels program brings it directly to their doors.

“I think the number one thing that keeps everyone here doing what they're doing is the people we interact with on a daily basis,” said Jeff, one of the drivers.

Nutrition workers like Jeff help put the meals together, then store them in special containers to keep them warm before heading out.

For some of the drivers, it’s about more than simply dropping the meals off.

“We are the eyes and ears of what’s happening to be honest with you. If we come back and we say look so-and-so didn’t answer for three days now, do we do a welfare check, do we call contact numbers on the account, do we look into it?”

By delivering them food 5 days a weeks, drivers have a chance to get to know their clients.

“Once you build up that rapport, they'll opt to interact more personally with you,” said Jeff.

One thing you do have to like to be a driver –

“Dogs,” said Jeff, laughing.

Jeff’s journey along his route which features stops in South Lake, Weldon, and Onyx, was scored by the barks of dogs, but most he’s become friendly with.

The Meals on Wheels program also allows participants to get library books delivered to their door with their food, and return ones they've already read.

The same meals that are delivered are served at the senior center, and resident Pauline Galindo has been going to eat lunch there for over 20 years.

“You meet wonderful people here, they have very good lunches, I can say that.”

The meals are available for free, but Jeff says most clients make a voluntary donation to the program.

Jeff told me it’s face-to face interaction with the clients that keeps him wanting to work there.

“How are you doing?”

And Galindo says that by eating in person she’s been able to make several close friends.

“Is there anything you’d like to add?” I asked.

“It’s a wonderful world! That’s it,” Galindo sang.

While this program helps many -- an employee from Kern County’s Aging and Adult Services told me they have been directed to no longer add new clients to the Meals on Wheels program and that it appears Kern County is moving to replace it with a contractor, Revolution Foods, who deliver frozen meals.

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