Providing a path to better health

Meal recipient Tom Barger pictured with Sen. Tina Smith

As part of an occasional series on how people benefit from Meals on Wheels in different ways, we’d like you to meet Tom, a meal recipient in South St. Paul. He’s pictured here with Sen. Tina Smith, who delivered a few meals to recipients this spring to learn more about the program.

Tom Barger had never thought Meals on Wheels would be an option for him until a care professional mentioned it as a possibility. Now he wonders where he would be without it.

Tom, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is 67 and lives alone with his cat in his South St. Paul apartment. He’s lived with Parkinson’s Disease for most of his adult life and these days the effects of the disease make it difficult for him to stand for any extended period of time.

Because his ability to cook is limited to ready-made foods he can put in the oven or microwave, his case manager suggested he give Meals on Wheels a try. What Tom didn’t realize is how much getting a daily meal would help him.

“I love the veggies,” he says. “The whole menu is really good. Two thumbs up on the variety.”

Before he signed up for Meals on Wheels, Tom said the only foods he was able to prepare were lacking in freshness and nutrition. He credits the daily meals with helping him get to a healthier weight.

Living on a fixed income, he also said food of the quality that he gets from Meals on Wheels would be difficult to afford within his budget. Tom qualifies for subsidized meals through the state’s Medicaid waiver program, which is an invaluable resource to seniors and people with disabilities that face challenges in preparing healthy meals for themselves.

In addition to the meals, Tom says he also appreciates the daily visits he gets from volunteers. “They’re nice people,” he says. “People treat me with nothing but dignity and respect.”

While he doesn’t place much stock in material things, Tom does have one prized possession he enjoys sharing with volunteers. It’s a signed picture of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston. The reason being, Tom feels a special connection to Ali since he also struggled with Parkinson’s Disease for many years.

“He’s my hero,” says Tom. “He was and always will be the greatest.”

If you or a loved one could benefit from nutritious meals delivered by a volunteer, you can sign up to receive meals here

Click to learn more about Meals on Heels 2024