Meals on Wheels America, the national leadership organization supporting community-based programs across the U.S. dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger, announced it has received a $500,000 grant from PetSmart Charities®, the leading funder of animal welfare in North America. This funding builds upon a $3+ million commitment to Meals on Wheels America and will support local Meals on Wheels programs’ efforts to establish new or expand existing, pet assistance services for pet-owning older adults, with an emphasis on serving underfunded geographies and populations.
Pets provide vital social connections for many older adults and can have a significant positive impact on their physical and mental health and well-being. Yet, caring for a pet may also present physical or financial challenges for older adults with limited mobility or financial constraints to manage alone, leading local Meals on Wheels programs to offer services to ease those challenges and help older adults and their pets stay together. A study released by Meals on Wheels America and PetSmart Charities last year identifying the needs of homebound seniors and their pets found that nearly half (48 percent) of Meals on Wheels clients receiving pet support did not have anyone else to help them with their pet needs other than Meals on Wheels.
“Pets are important members of the family, especially for seniors,” said Aimee Gilbreath, president of PetSmart Charities. “Working in partnership with Meals on Wheels America has given us a seamless connection to pet parents in need of support. Receiving pet food right alongside their own meals may reduce financial strain and prolong the time people and their pets have together. It’s an innovative way we can look out for both ends of the leash.”
The same study also uncovered service gaps in the Meals on Wheels network’s pet assistance offerings across certain geographies, in some cases contributing to additional unmet need among historically marginalized older adults. Meals on Wheels America will leverage PetSmart Charities’ recent funding to expand its pet assistance grant making for local Meals on Wheels programs in an effort to address those gaps and facilitate pet care for more seniors who may need it. The new grant opportunities are designed to bolster the development, growth and sustainability of local programs’ pet assistance services in underserved areas and/or increase scalability and expand access to care.
“With this generous funding from our partners at PetSmart Charities, we can more fully support the on-the-ground-work needed for us to better understand and navigate barriers local programs face in providing pet services in communities that have historically gone without,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO, Meals on Wheels America. “We will be able to bolster growth and capacity-building among historically under-resourced and overlooked programs in the regions that need it most. With this grant from PetSmart Charities, we can significantly move the needle toward our goal of increasing the number of seniors and pets Meals on Wheels can help keep together for years to come.”
The $500,000 grant comes on the heels of additional funds granted from PetSmart Charities in early 2021 to provide emergency grants to local Meals on Wheels programs working to meet an increased demand for their pet-related services and overcome infrastructure challenges in geographic areas that had been hit hard by Covid-19 and a number of natural disasters.