Page Reviewed / Updated – September 24nd, 2021

Medicare does not pay for Meals on Wheels. Fortunately, though, Meals on Wheels agencies typically serve seniors regardless of their ability to pay. Some programs operate on a sliding fee scale or take food stamps as payment. Seniors or their caregivers can contact their local Meals on Wheels program or visit Meals on Wheels America to learn about requirements in their area.

What Is Meals on Wheels?

Meals on Wheels combats hunger and isolation among homebound seniors. It is the only federally supported program designed for this purpose. Volunteers bring hot or frozen meals to the doorstep of participants, including friendly visits and home safety checks with each meal delivery. Many agencies prepare and send fresh meals every weekday, while others may pack and deliver enough frozen meals to last a week.

Each program’s services may vary according to the resources and needs of their communities. However, every Meals on Wheels focuses on nourishing seniors who cannot prepare or obtain wholesome meals on their own. Meals on Wheels might also provide food and veterinary care for pets of clients.

Who Does Meals on Wheels Serve?

Most Meals on Wheels programs serve adults 60 and older, although some have different age requirements. Seniors must have physical or mental disabilities that make it difficult to leave home unassisted, shop for food or prepare meals. They typically lack family or community support to provide meals as well.

What Free Alternatives to Meals on Wheels Are Available?

Original Medicare does not cover Meals on Wheels, but seniors can find a similar solution to food needs, including these options: 

Medicare Advantage: Some Medicare Advantage plans cover meal delivery services on a temporary basis. Individuals must meet certain criteria. 

Medicaid: Medicaid beneficiaries may be entitled to home meal delivery under their plan. A case manager can help with determining eligibility. 

Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE): PACE programs may include meal delivery or meals prepared by a personal care worker. Most participants qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

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