Meals Fur Pets: A Heartwarming Initiative by Meals on Wheels East Texas
In the heart of East Texas, a unique and compassionate program has been going on for ten years, adding an extra layer of warmth to the well-established Meals on Wheels service. While Meals on Wheels has long been associated with delivering nutritious meals to homebound older adults, a lesser-known but equally impactful initiative within the organization is the “Meals Fur Pets” program. This heartwarming endeavor ensures that not only older East Texans receive nourishment but also their beloved furry companions.
The Significance of Pets for Older Adults
For many, pets are not just companions; they are family. Studies have shown that having pets can contribute to improved mental and emotional well-being among older adults. The companionship of a dog or cat can alleviate feelings of loneliness and provide a sense of purpose. Recognizing the significance of these relationships, Meals on Wheels East Texas launched the Meals Fur Pets program alongside The Humane Society’s Pets Fur People to extend their support beyond human recipients.
In all, 55 percent of adults ages 50 to 80 have a pet, according to the new findings — and more than half of those have multiple pets. More than three-quarters of pet owners say their animals reduce their stress, and nearly as many say pets give them a sense of purpose.-KARA GAVIN, Research and Policy Media Relations Manager, University of Michigan
Monthly Deliveries of Pet Food
The Meals Fur Pets program operates on a simple yet impactful premise: providing dog and cat food to Meals on Wheels clients once a month. This thoughtful addition to the regular (human) meal deliveries not only ensures that seniors have access to the nutrition they need but also guarantees that their four-legged friends are well taken care of.
The Process in Action
Each month, alongside the nutritious meals prepared for seniors, Meals on Wheels East Texas includes a supply of dog and cat food for the clients with pets. The pet food is delivered alongside the human food each month.
Volunteers play a crucial role in making this program successful. These dedicated individuals not only deliver the pet food but also take the time to check in on both the seniors and their animals, fostering a sense of community and care. This extra step ensures that the program goes beyond just providing sustenance and extends to building meaningful connections.
There are now volunteer opportunities to help pack pet food as well!
We need volunteers to come help take the large bags of dog and cat food and pack them into smaller, gallon-size baggies that are easy for our clients to manage; Meals Fur Pets volunteer day is Wednesday each week between 9am and 2pm.-Melissa Miller, Meals Fur Pets Program Coordinator
Community Support and Donations
Meals Fur Pets relies on the support of the community to sustain its operations. Local businesses, pet-based organizations, and individuals donate pet food, supplies, and funds to ensure the program’s success. This collaborative effort exemplifies the power of a caring community coming together to address the unique needs of vulnerable populations.
Several local organizations help support this program; more are needed. Pets Fur People has assisted with pet food packing and sharing of resources since 2013. Therapet Animal Assisted Therapy of Tyler hosts a pet food drive annually just before Christmas to help keep Meals Fur Pets supplied with dog and cat food. Smith County Animal Control donated stuffed animal pet toys for Christmas 2023. Recently, Furry Land Mobile Grooming of Tyler-Longview has stepped forward to offer monthly pet food drives and quarterly grooming services to help support this program.
In addition to support from individual donors and local businesses and organizations, the program receives funding through grants from foundations such as Miranda Lambert’s MuttNation and a partnership between Meals on Wheels America and PetSmart Charities.
Support comes from those who understand the importance of keeping older adults and their pets together. Additional mobile grooming services, basic vet care services, and pet food donations, especially dog food, are needed at this time to help maintain and grow this vital program.
Impact on Older Adults and Their Pets
The Meals Fur Pets program has made a significant impact on the lives of hundreds of older adults and their pets in East Texas for the past 10 years. Not only does it provide essential pet food, but it also contributes to the overall well-being of the recipients. The joy and companionship that pets bring to their owners are preserved, creating a positive ripple effect on the older adults’ mental and emotional health.
We have long known that pets are a common and naturally occurring source of support for older adults, especially those who otherwise live alone.– Cathleen Connell, Ph.D., a professor at the U-M School of Public Health who has studied the role of companion animals in older adults’ lives
Many studies even show that pet ownership impacts physical health as well, encouraging older adults to engage in physical activity to care for their pet. See the video below from Meals on Wheels America for more information on the impact of pet companionship on physical health.
Meals Fur Pets stands as a shining example of how small gestures can make a big difference in the lives of vulnerable populations. By recognizing the importance of the bond between clients and their pets, Meals on Wheels East Texas maintains a program that goes beyond addressing basic needs, fostering a sense of community, compassion, and kindness. As we celebrate initiatives like Meals Fur Pets, we are reminded of the profound impact that thoughtful gestures can have on the lives of those who need it the most.
Meals on Wheels East Texas welcomes new volunteers and donors to get involved with this vital, heartwarming program. For more information, click the button below or contact Meals Fur Pets Program Coordinator Melissa Miller at Melissa.Miller@mowmet.org or (903)593-7385.This form is currently undergoing maintenance. Please try again later.