Owensboro Health Wins Award for Program Delivering Frozen Meals to Homebound Elderly

Jun 25, 2019

Associate Director of Food & Nutrition Services Stephanie Whelan, right, and Executive Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Little, second from right, talk to nutrition and food service professionals during a kitchen tour at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. Little originated the idea that led to the senior frozen meals program.
Credit Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health has a model program that tackles two issues of concern to food aid organizations across the nation - hunger and food waste.

The health care organization is part of a collaboration that's bringing frozen meals to some of Kentucky’s homebound senior citizens.

The program recently won the 2019 Rurual Achievement Award from the National Association of Regional Councils.

The program arose from conversations among staff at Owensboro Health, its food service provider, Morrison Healthcare, and those in the Green River Area Development District who work with senior citizens.


The executive director of Morrison told Owensboro Health Community Engagement Director Debbie Zuerner Johnson that too much fresh, nutritious food was being thrown away. Johnson said the extra food is different every day. 

“Maybe it’s a tray, a very large tray of lasagna, or a meat entrée, or bowls of salads or something like that, that are ready to go," said Johnson. "They’re ready to be baked or prepared and put on the line or used for patients but they’re not, they’re not used.” 

Community leaders who work with programs that deliver meals to homebound senior citizens said they knew some of those elders were saving half of their meals from Thursday and Friday to eat over the weekend, when meals are not delivered.

In an effort to address those needs, the extra food from Owensboro Health was packaged, frozen and delivered to those seniors.

Since the program went into effect in December 2017, more than 9,500 frozen meals have been delivered to homebound senior citizens.

Johnson said there was no initial cost for saving and freezing the extra food,and delivering the weekend meals to the homebound elderly. One small cost that eventually came about was switching away from aluminum plates, because senior citizens couldn’t use them in the microwave. 

The program has been so successful that the Kentucky Department of Aging and Independent Living is working with the Green River Area Development District to find a way to replicate the project in communities across the state.