Feeding hungry people can entail tough decisions

Meals on Wheels administrator does what it takes to feed elders, disabled

Shawnda Hobson
Shawnda Hobson

Some people are living proof that caring makes a difference. For instance, Shawnda Hobson, administrator of Meals on Wheels at Community Emergency Service (CES) in South Minneapolis, capitalizes on the organization’s resources to fulfill her commitment to contribute to the community’s wellbeing.

Hobson went to Summit Academy OIC, where she took a course in community health work. “From there, CES was my internship, [which is how] I learned about Meals on Wheels.” She’s been associated with CES since 2013. “I wanted a job in the community, being hands on, helping others.”

This job certainly fills that bill. Meals on Wheels (MOW) programs in the Twin Cities have existed for more than 40 years, meeting a need for home-delivered meals. With a number of locations, it serves upwards of 6,800 seniors and the disabled, providing, along with food, social connection, connecting recipients to other home-based services, and peace of mind to clients, caregivers and families.

Their delivery options include hot meals brought to the door weekdays between 11 am and 1 pm, weekly frozen meals, and on request, additional meals during the week for consumption on holidays and weekends. For good measure, MOW also offers pet food.

“A lot of people don’t know what’s available to them. [They’re] missing out on opportunities. I can navigate them to those resources they need,” says Hobson.

Hobson doesn’t do it by herself. “There’s a team of five of us who make the decisions that are all based on what’s best for our clients, assessing their needs in [making that determination].”

The buck, though, stops with Hobson. Pursuant to which, there are, at times, tough decisions that must be made, “whether it’s adding a new client when there aren’t enough funds, or if it’s terminating a client for whatever reason.”

How does she administer money that isn’t there? “We do a lot of grants, get a lot of donations. I have personally helped some people. You make a way for someone to eat. I want to see everyone if possible receive what they can actually get.”

When she can’t come up with the funding, Hobson will look into who can. “There are referrals to other organizations, or I’ll ask them to come here. I’ll point people to wherever they can get the help.”

On the other hand, when she needs to make a tough call to cut someone off, it simply has to be done. In the case, for instance, of a client trying to pull a fast one, “You can’t be [enrolled with] more than one agency. If you’re a part of this program, you’re not allowed to be part of another program, because that takes away from another person.

“Some people like to, if you will, double dip. Even that can be unfortunate, because there are those who do need the extra. But I can’t do it.” There’s a limit, after all, to how much even a caring hand can share.

It’s not like Hobson didn’t have other career options: “I’ve worked in the corporate world. I’ve been there. It’s selfish, and I’m not a selfish person. My mission is to help.”

That passion comes from past experience. “I’ve been helped, and I want to do for others what has been done for me. When I was growing up, there was a lot of assistance that we personally, our family, received. So, I’ve been on both sides. That’s what really motivates me to do what I do, because I once needed it and am now giving it to someone else.”

She very much wants more people to be aware of Meals on Wheels as a means of aiding individuals in preserving their dignity. Employers are not exactly knocking themselves out to hire seniors and, in fact, more and more of them find themselves retired from the workforce whether they want to be or not. Nor are the disabled finding all their accessible needs met.

So, if you find life has compromised your independence, something like this program certainly helps. “It’s a great service,” says Hobson. “It’s a way to keep people in their homes.”

On MOW’s website are first-hand testimonial corroboration of that sentiment. A MOW client is quoted, “I feel such relief that I do not have to plan meals or shop for seven meals a week. The food is very good and the variety is fabulous. I feel very blessed. Thank you!”

Music to the ears of someone like Shawnda Hobson.


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.