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A Voice for the Good: Homebound Meals

3Rivers is proud to support so many of the non-profit organizations that are committed to making our community a better place to live, work, and play, and we want to help spread the word about the difference they're making in our region. We’ve teamed up with 97.3WMEE to bring you A Voice for the Good, a series in which we feature local organizations on our website in the form of an informative articles as well as on-air segments highlighting the non-profits’ missions.

This article features Homebound Meals—a local non-profit on a mission to enhance the quality of health and life of the homebound community by the delivery of the hot nutritional meals and the visits of the volunteer drivers.

Homebound Meals Logo

We talked with Barbara Umber, Executive Director, to learn more about Homebound Meals and the work they’re doing in our community.

How did Homebound Meals come to be? What’s the history/story behind how the organization initially got started?

Homebound Meals, Inc. was founded in 1971 by members of the Fort Wayne Medical Society Auxiliary. These civic minded individuals were concerned that “shut-ins” in our area were not receiving healthy nutrition. The service began with volunteers delivering hospital prepared hot meals to four clients on one route. Today, Homebound Meals partners with 120 volunteers who cover 24 daily delivery routes and to date has served over 1,287,000 meals. Over the years, the numbers of meals delivered, clients served, and volunteers have certainly grown, but Homebound Meals remains the same simple, grassroots organization launched 53 years ago.

What is the official mission of Homebound Meals, and how is it currently being put into play?

The mission of Homebound Meals, Inc. (HBM) is to assist our community to age in place, recuperate and enhance health through medically tailored meals delivered by dedicated volunteer drivers. The meals are delivered to clients who due to age, illness or disability are unable to safely prepare meals for themselves. All the meals are subsidized to some degree.  Mindful of our clients’ dignity, we encourage them to pay a portion of the meal price, but when needed we will provide meals at no cost. The framework of Homebound Meals is based on inclusion, and we have no age or income restrictions. We do this to encourage communal meals and will deliver meals to caregivers and multigenerational homes. This flexibility makes possible meal delivery to food insecure individuals who fall through the cracks of other programs. Homebound Meals follows the food-as medicine philosophy and is certified for the delivery of medically tailored meals. Clients may select from freshly prepared, daily delivered hot-meals (17 medical diets available). Last year Homebound Meals added a medically-tailored frozen meal which gives us the opportunity to serve clients residing in rural or food deserts. Both meal types are delivered by one of our dedicated volunteer drivers. The volunteer may be the clients’ only connection to our community and their visit plays a role in the protection of these vulnerable individuals. 

A volunteer delivering food to someone's home.

How do you see the mission and vision of Homebound Meals evolving in the future in the Northeast Indiana community? Where do you see your organization a year from now, or even five years from now?

In addition to inclusion, Homebound Meals strives to work in partnerships that prevent the duplication of effort and services in our community. Going forward, that will remain our focus. In addition to individual clients, who will remain our top priority, we are focusing on small group deliveries to adult day-care, in-home childcare, alternative schools, and similar types of organizations. These are facilities whereby healthy hot food is paramount but staffing and time constraints may detract from proper care. Our deliveries will eliminate that concern. Homebound Meals continues to reach out into rural communities to serve  frequently overlooked individuals residing in food deserts. Our goal would be to identify providers in some of these locations so that we could offer hot meals in these areas as well.

Are there any exciting new developments, updates, or changes that have recently taken place at Homebound Meals?

Homebound is launching a collaboration with local medical professionals to address nutritional needs for individuals with chronic illnesses. Sometimes clients just need to be taught through examples what the proper healthy diet is for their specific needs. Unfortunately, they may be unable  to provide said for themselves so Homebound can fill that gap. Our mission remains—feeding those who need healthy medically tailored meals as efficiently and effectively as we can.

Homebound Meals volunteers packaging food for delivery.

Could you share a standout story or two that really illustrates the impact Homebound Meals and/or its programs has on people in our community?

Our client originally contacted Homebound Meals with assistance from his Veterans Affairs case manager. He is a disabled veteran who after completing rehabilitation was pleased to be moving into his own apartment. His hotel apartment has a small refrigerator but no oven or stove. The client has limited mobility, uses a walker and no reliable transportation making him very food-insecure. He receives veteran benefits, is careful with spending, but his budget is limited. He was pleased to discover that all meals are subsidized  and that a volunteer would deliver a  daily hot meal right to his door. He shares he loves the variety of entrees and that the “homecooked” meals are delicious. Having many medical appointments he frequently uses our safe delivery method (cooler & frozen ice pack) and has a meal waiting for him upon his return. This client has proudly served our country and Homebound Meals is honored to deliver our meals to him.

Our new volunteer driver had made just two prior deliveries to this elder client. When making the third delivery she became concerned that something seemed “different” that morning.  The client came to the door to receive her meal  but was moving slowly and appeared disheveled. Our driver asked the client if she felt okay, and the client remarked that she felt fine. Although not slurring words, our driver noted that her response was slow, and she appeared confused. The driver contacted our office, and we shared her concerns with the client’s son (emergency contact). The son quickly checked on his mother, agreed that she seemed ill and transported her to a local hospital. After an examination and bloodwork, the ER doctor reported that the client had a life-threatening blood infection and likely would not have survived another 24 hours! Fortunately, the client recovered and  eventually discharged home. In addition to delivering  meals, these volunteer driver daily visits provide an important safety net for so many in our community. 

How can those interested in your services go about getting started or getting in touch?

Homebound Meals has no age or income restrictions. Youth or elder, short-term or long-term our program is individualized to meet your needs! Applications may be completed online or if preferred, right over the phone. In most cases clients can begin receiving the hot meals in 48 hours. For additional information please visit our website at: We welcome phone calls  directly at 260.422.3296, ext. 1. 

Are there other local non-profit organizations that Homebound Meals works/partners with to enhance their programs?

Homebound Meals recognizes that partnerships with collaboration create a better outcome for those we serve. Locally we are a member of the Council on Senior Services and partner with hospitals, hospice organizations, health clinics, home health care, daycare, senior apartment housing, schools and churches for client referral. Recognizing  our clients may benefit from our partners’ programs, we regularly  distribute information packets for their services. We are a partner agency with the Volunteer Center for volunteer recruitment.   

3Rivers donating a check to Homebound Meals during a Komets hockey game.

Are there opportunities for community members to volunteer at Homebound Meals—and if so, how can they go about learning more?

Homebound Meals is always in need of volunteers! Our volunteer drivers truly “fuel” our program and carry out the mission with each meal delivery. Whether you are delivering a meal, sharing a smile or spending a few minutes talking, be assured that you are enriching a day in the life of a Homebound Meals client. All volunteer drivers receive helpful training and are able to select a delivery day that works best for their schedule. Most routes take 90 minutes or less.  If interested in volunteering or for additional information please email us at or call 260.422.3296, ext. 2.

In what other ways can community members support Homebound Meals—be it through monetary donations, material donations, education, etc.? Do you have an itemized wish list of any kind or utilize options like AmazonSmile to raise funds?

Homebound Meals relies on the generosity of this community to fund the program. We are always seeking monetary donations to offset subsidies for restricted-income clients.  You may easily donate directly on our website or if you would prefer, through PayPal Giving.  Homebound Meals participates in the Kroger Community Rewards program. Shoppers may participate by linking their Shoppers Card to our organization. Gasoline gift cards are always appreciated for our volunteer drivers. Our funding partners are always welcome to visit our office and do a ride along to see the impact of their generosity.

 Where can our readers learn more about Homebound Meals or about getting involved?

Please visit our website for additional information or call us direct at 260.422.3296.

 Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about Homebound Meals?

Homebound Meals delivers “holistic nutrition” good for the body and spirit. Homebound Meals was founded in our community, for our community and dependent on the generosity of our community. As long as there is a need in our community, we will be here to serve.

Interested in featuring your non-profit on our website and on 97.3WMEE’s A Voice for the Good? Text "VOICE" to 46862! Please note that this may lead you to incur standard text messaging rates or other applicable charges consistent with your wireless carrier/mobile phone plan.

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