Meal and Grocery Delivery for
Homebound Seniors

By Clare Absher RN, BSN  
Updated: 06/03/2019  
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Elderly couple preparing home delivered meal Photo by highwaystarz on Adobe Stock

About Title III Nutrition Programs

Good nutrition is crucial to maintaining an older person's health and overall well-being. There are a variety of programs across every state that administer Title III of the Older Americans Act, which promote nutrition and supportive services. One of the more popular programs, known as "Meals on Wheels", provides home meals delivered by local volunteers to the elderly. Meals vary from 1-2 meals daily and often includes a hot and/or cold meal.

Recent statistics remind us just how important this funding and service is to our seniors: in 2015 Title III nutrition programs helped 2.4 million seniors, providing 80 million meals.1 Meals on Wheels delivered approximately 142 million meals2 to needy seniors, helping the most economically and socially vulnerable with not just a fresh meal but also with social interaction. In addition to the Title III programs, many grocery delivery services are growing in availability or may be arranged with more familiar local grocers.

Meal and Grocery Delivery Options

Meals on Wheels is a network of more than 5,000 local programs. Because each program is independently-run, there are variations in funding, services, eligibility, and payment. According to, funding may include federal, state, local, and private dollars. Services may include hot and ready-to-eat meals or cold / frozen meals. Eligibility may include an age requirement of 60 years and over. Payment may include a sliding fee scale, from no cost to full price.

Instacart Online Grocery Delivery Service is a rising star in this market and is widely available. You can use their mobile app or website to access the service, and the process is simple. First, you put in your zip code to find a local store that participates in the program. Then, you add the grocery items to your cart and choose a delivery time. Finally, you pay for the order and delivery fee.

Benefits of Home Delivered Meals

Nutritional well-being plays a vital role in the overall health, independence, and quality of life of older persons. Research shows that many older Americans, however, aren't eating well.1 Those who may have lost their teeth find it difficult to chew while others may have disabilities or functional impairments and are unable to shop for groceries or cook for themselves. Still others either do not understand about the types of food that they need to help keep them healthy or simply cannot afford to buy the proper foods. For older Americans, poor nutrition can lead to weight loss, weakness, lessened immunity to disease, confusion, increased frailty and debilitation.4 Home Delivered meals offers one solution to relieving a family's worry about a loved one's poor eating habits or inability to cook while grocery delivery services eliminate concerns about inabilities to drive and shop.

How Much Do These Services Cost?

The Administration on Aging through Titles III and VI of the Older Americans Act funds and administers the largest community nutrition services program for older Americans. This program provides nutrition services including meals, nutrition education, and other services to mobile and homebound elders 60 years of age and older with a preference to those in greatest economic and social need. The meals are usually provided at very reasonable cost or sometimes at no cost depending on income level. Grocery delivery service's costs vary but frequently charge a percentage of total grocery purchases or simply add on service charge.


  1. “Support America’s Seniors: Fund OAA Title III Programs, including Meals on Wheels.” National Association of Area Agency on Aging Accessed 20 April 2019.
  2. Ibid
  3. “Senior health: How to prevent and detect malnutrition.” Mayo Clinic
  4. Ibid
Clare Absher RN BSN

About the Author

Clare Absher is a Registered Nurse with 44 years of experience. Most of her experience is in home health serving as a caregiver, educator, patient advocate, and liaison between families and community resources. She has also worked in acute care, assisted living, and retirement settings. She is passionate about helping families care for their elderly loved ones at home.

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