How Much Does Meals On Wheels Cost? (Meals On Wheels FAQ)


Meals on Wheels Ameica's headline.

What is Meals on Wheels (MOW), and how can it help you or someone you know?

Meals on Wheels programs are intended to provide seniors with access to consistent and inexpensive nutrition. These programs may not be able to fully solve the issue of malnutrition due to the lack of resources, but they do help millions of seniors annually.

Why are programs like Meals on Wheels important? According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of under nutrition among individuals aged over 60 ranges from 1.3% to 47.8%. The prevalence is much higher in low to mid-income countries. In the US, the senior population is increasing rapidly, as is the poverty rate, meaning more and more seniors may end up struggling with malnourishment (more on this below).

In this post, we will help you gain a better understanding of MOW programs and how seniors can get started with them if needed.

We’ll also provide numerous Meals On Wheels facts and faq’s (frequently asked questions).

What Is Meals On Wheels?

Meals on Wheels are community programs that deliver healthy and affordable food to individuals in need (especially seniors). Meals on Wheels programs are typically focused on individuals who have malnutrition, limited income, and can’t purchase or prepare meals themselves.

Eligibility criteria may differ between MOW programs – make sure to check out local organizations for more details.

In the United States, the chief Meals on Wheels organization is Meals on Wheels America. The about page of this organization reads:

Meals on Wheels America is the leadership organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network serves virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America’s seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. By providing funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time.

MOW America notes in the above sources that the senior population in the US will increase significantly in the coming decades, leaving more and more seniors at the risk of hunger and isolation. They cite the fact that nearly 7.5 million seniors have incomes below the poverty line ($240 per week or less).The senior population grow quickly in the US.

More and more seniors may become malnourished or socially isolated.

What Countries Is Meals For Wheels Available In?

Meals on Wheels programs are available in other countries as well besides the US. Canadian residents may find more info about local programs through the Canadian Red Cross website. Programs are available in the UK and Australia too.

Who Funds Meals On Wheels?

Typically, Meals on Wheels programs receive most of their funding via donations. In the United States, programs receive federal support as well.

Meals on Wheels People (MOWP) – a program servicing a number of areas in the states of Oregon and Washington – writes in regard to its sources of funding:

Meals on Wheels People receives funding from a variety of sources. More than 70 percent of our annual budget comes from contributions from the community. We receive some federal support through Older American Act and Medicaid dollars, as well as from the USDA. Participants are asked to contribute what they can toward the cost of their meals and we have an active development department that seeks private donations and grants.

MOWP’s 2020 annual report also displays sources of funding (left) and expenses (right):

MOWP funding sources.

MOW San Francisco had a similar picture in 2019:

MOWSF funding sources.

MOWSF expenses.

Funding sources may vary between programs – make sure to check local Meals on Wheels providers for more info.

Meals On Wheels America reports that the Older Americans Act (OAA) funds “39% of the total cost to provide nutritious meals, safety checks, and friendly visits to 2.4 million seniors each year”. The remaining 61% comes from state and/or local sources, private donations, and federal block grants.

MOW America points out that existing funding is insufficient to fully take care of the needs of seniors, noting that as of September 2020, 20 million fewer meals were served than in 2005 because of increased operational costs and stagnant funding. In recent years, federal funding for US MOW programs has been cut as well.

Lack of funding makes Meals on Wheels measures insufficient.

The situation may be different in other countries – check out local programs if you are outside the US.

How Much Does Meals On Wheels Cost?

Meals typically cost about $7, but most programs ask seniors to contribute what they can afford. Meals on Wheels People provides meals for $7.39. Some programs may provide several meal options – such as beverages, salads, or portion sizes – to help seniors budget more easily.

Make sure to inquire about meal costs from your local program provider.

Who Qualifies For Meals On Wheels?

MOW America writes regarding the focus of the program:

Seniors threatened with hunger and social isolation make up the core of Meals on Wheels clients. Specific qualifications vary by community, however, services typically require physical or financial challenges to their ability to eat healthy meals and move freely about their communities. In many areas, there are not enough local resources to meet the need, leading to the creation of waiting lists full of people who need the service but are not yet recipients.

Eligibility criteria may vary between programs. MOWP has the following requirements:

“Meals on Wheels are hot, nutritious lunches that are delivered Monday through Friday to the homebound elderly who meet these requirements:

  • 60 years of age or older (or the spouse of a person 60 years of age or older)
  • at risk of malnutrition
  • unable to come in to a Meals on Wheels People center for a meal.”

MOW San Francisco has somewhat different wording:

“Our services are geared primarily toward serving meals to low-income seniors. To be eligible for our services, you must be:

  • 60 years of age or older
  • Living in San Francisco
  • Additional factors contributing to eligibility may include:
    • Being home bound or needing help leaving your home
    • Unable to prepare meals or shop for yourself
    • A recent hospital stay or ongoing health problems
    • Primarily living alone or with a caregiver”

Note that some programs may also serve younger individuals with disabilities. If you have special needs, make sure to research all available options in your area.

Meals On Wheels Near Me – How Do I Locate It?

If you are in the United States, visit the “Find Meals” web page of Meals of Wheels America.

Type in your ZIP code and click “Search”. As an example, let’s use 94105, which is a San Francisco postal code.

Meals on Wheels ZIP code search.

You’ll see a list of programs (along with their contact details) in the ZIP code area. Find the nearest available program provider and click on their name to visit their website. Note that some programs may not be available online and may be available only by phone.

Meals on Wheels locations.

Let’s pick Meals on Wheels San Francisco (MOWSF) as an example.

On the homepage of MOWSF, hover your mouse cursor over “Meals & Services” and click “How To Apply For Meals On Wheels” in the dropdown menu.

Meal application dropdown menu on the MOWSF website.

In MOW San Francisco’s case, you are redirected to a FAQ-style get started web page. Scroll down until you find HOW DO I APPLY FOR MEALS ON WHEELS SAN FRANCISCO?

MOWSF application procedure.

The exact process may vary from program to program, but you shouldn’t have any have issues applying for local Meals on Wheels.

If you are in Australia, the UK, or Canada, the steps should be similar as well. Choose whichever resource is relevant to your location to find out more info:

How Many Locations Does MOW Have?

Meals on Wheels America operates a network of over 5,000 community programs in the United States. Every year, these programs deliver 221 million meals to 2.4 million seniors.

MOW associations in other countries appear not to disclose the number of programs under their supervision.

How Many Calories In MOW?

Menus can vary significantly from program to program. But for reference, in Santa Monica, seniors get 2,000 calories per meal. In contrast, menus of Meals on Wheels People are designed to provide at least one-third of the daily nutrients required for adults.

How Many Meals Does MOW Deliver?

Each community program has its own policies. For example, MOW San Francisco provides two meals a day seven days a week (including holidays), while MOW Los Angeles offers two meals a day five days per week (though weekend meals may also be available upon request).

Note that programs that provide meals less frequently may deliver larger portions to keep you going through the week. Make sure to get in touch with a local program provider for more details.

How To Volunteer With Meals On Wheels?

To volunteer with MOW , you should find a program in your area and visit its website. Look for links in the website menu bar at the top of the page.

Volunteer dropdown menu on the MOWSF website.

Meal application dropdown menu on the MOWA website.

Volunteering may be done via the delivery of meals, phone chats with seniors, wellness check calls, or donations.

How Many Volunteers Does Meals On Wheels Have?

MOW America has about 2 million volunteers throughout the United States. But the association adds that “it will take a huge increase in volunteers and resources to begin to meet the need going forward”.


In the end, for more relevant info, find MOW programs near you and get in touch with their providers. And keep in mind that policies regarding things like eligibility or meal frequency may vary between associations.

We hope you found this Meals On Wheels Guide helpful!



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