Weather Forecast


Mobile Meals celebrates 40th year

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington's Mobile Meals program will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a public open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday in the cafeteria of Sanford Worthington Medical Center.

Mobile Meals serves hot, nutritious noon-time meals to nearly 65 clients per day, Monday through Friday, in the community. The service caters to people who, because of illness, disability, advanced age or other incapacitating condition, are unable to prepare a meal for themselves. The meals are prepared at Sanford Worthington Medical Center.

It was in June 1971 that the Women's Association's Community Involvement Committee of Westminster Presbyterian Church hosted a gathering for representatives from all churches in Worthington to organize a home-delivered meal program. During that organizational meeting, an Extension educator and social worker from Estherville, Iowa, spoke about how the program worked in their community.

After numerous meetings throughout the summer and fall by the 15-member board of directors -- one representative from each church -- the first meals were delivered to 14 clients on Oct. 4, 1971, at a cost of just $1.20 per meal ($1.25 for those requiring special diets).

Today, the price for a meal is just $3, thanks in large part to a donation willed to the program several years ago.

"That has sustained us for some time," said Judy Luing of Rushmore, who serves as treasurer of Mobile Meals.

Oftentimes, Luing will receive notes of thanks for the meals that are provided. One of them she read earlier this week said, "Thank you again! What a wonderful service you provide. Dad tells me the meals are great," and another one was scribed, "My favorite entrée was chicken ala king on a biscuit, which is oh so good. Wonderful homemade cookies, too."

Luing said the Mobile Meals program helps some people to stay in their own home longer, rather than move into an assisted living facility or nursing home. For those people, there is a tremendous cost savings.

"There's no place like home to eat," she added.

In addition to receiving their meal, the clients also appreciate the visit by the volunteers who deliver them.

Marilyn Greve, a longtime board member for Mobile Meals, said sometimes the meal delivery person is the only visit a client may receive in a day.

"It's an outreach that way, too," she said.

Most clients who receive Mobile Meals are referred by an agency, whether it's the hospital, home health provider or Family Services, but that isn't a requirement. Dee Ella of Worthington coordinates the list of clients and is available to answer questions or sign up new clients. She can be reached at 376-4769.

"About 75 percent are referrals, and 25 percent are family members that call," said Ella.

Just like when the program began 40 years ago, there are still 15 churches who participate with Mobile Meals, mostly in providing volunteer drivers for meal delivery.

Greve said the churches rotate the responsibility -- some larger congregations take a month at a time, while smaller churches often cover deliveries for two weeks. There are currently eight delivery routes operating, with meals going to clients living within the Worthington city limits.

Invitations for Sunday's open house were sent to all of the churches, encouraging everyone who has ever driven, delivered meals or received meals to attend. Greve said, however, that the event is open to the public, and there will be some displays about the Mobile Meals program for people who would like more information.

After 40 years, the board is appreciative to all of the people who volunteered in one way or another to keep the Mobile Meals program alive in Worthington.

"We really appreciate the cooperation from the hospital for all these years," added Greve. "They've fixed the meals from Day One, and it's always been a good working relationship."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330