How to Find Low-Cost Meal Delivery Services

Visiting an elderly woman
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A number of diverse groups, often nonprofits and state-run or community-based organizations, offer meals and meal delivery services. These may be at little cost for those who qualify.

Local options can include:

  • Meals on Wheels. The oldest and largest national organization offering meal services to those in need, Meals on Wheels charges an average of about $35 weekly for two meals daily, although no one is denied delivery for financial reasons. You can find a local program, along with contact information for member programs that also provide meals, through the website run by the national office of Meals on Wheels.

  • Salvation Army. Some locations offer nutrition services for the elderly, both onsite and by delivery. You can find local services by searching under elderly services by ZIP code at the website run by the national office of the Salvation Army.

  • Visiting Nurses Associations. Many local Visiting Nurses Associations will deliver fresh and frozen meals to residents for a low cost. You can find the nearest group through the website of the Visiting Nurse Associations of America.

  • Family Service Agencies. These nonprofit or state-run agencies generally have the goal of making it possible for seniors to continue to live in the community as independently as possible. Some operate their own meal delivery services; most provide referrals to locally available services. Search online for family service agency in the nearest city or county.

  • Religious organizations. Some churches, synagogues, and interfaith or other religious organizations have established meal delivery programs. And some will arrange to cover the needs of individuals informally, particularly for those who are members. Check with local organizations for details.

  • Community service groups. Some community groups, usually staffed by volunteers, offer meal delivery services at a slight cost or with a voluntary donation encouraged. To find them, searching a local telephone book under Community Services may be more direct than an Internet search.

  • Senior centers. Most community senior centers offer meal and nutrition programs, including group meals onsite. Some will also deliver to homes within a close geographical distance. Check with local senior centers and adult daycare centers for services.

  • Aging-in-place organizations. In a growing number of communities, individuals have banded together to offer referrals or actual services that make it easier to age at home, to those who pay a yearly membership fee. Services usually include meal preparation and delivery. Because these groups go by different names -- Boston's Beacon Hill Village and San Francisco's San Francisco Village were among the early models -- it can be a bit difficult to find a local one. To begin, search online on aging in place along with the name of the city or county.

Also be sure to see our checklist on What to Ask When You Call a Meal Delivery Service. And if the delivery services described here don't meet your needs, see Other Meal Options.

Barbara Kate Repa

Barbara Kate Repa, a lawyer and journalist, has devoted her career to editing and writing about legal issues for consumers. See full bio