The nonprofit Missoula Aging Services in Missoula needs volunteer drivers for its "Meals on Wheels" delivery program.

The nonprofit delivers about 100,000 meals a year to homebound people in Missoula County, from Frenchtown to Clinton. Usually, they have about 80-100 regular drivers, but they're down to about 65 or 70 right now, according to nutrition program specialist Dean Thompson.

"A lot of this has to do with people retiring, but summer always brings a shortage for us," he said. "Volunteers go on vacation to take advantage of good weather. But it seems to be particularly low this year. We are just looking for more help to shore us up."

The program has 16 routes, with some as long as 45 miles or shorter routes of just 15 miles. Drivers are reimbursed for their mileage, but they use their own cars and aren't paid.

"People do this out of the goodness of their hearts," Thompson explained. "These meals go to people that are pretty much homebound, who struggle day-to-day to make their own meals."

Across the community and age groups, people are struggling with food insecurity. Last semester, the University of Montana started a food pantry in the University Center. The UM Food Pantry had distributed roughly 270 pounds of food a month in its first three months of operation.

The Missoula Food Bank also has counted a growing need in the community. In 2018, the Food Bank saw a 14% increase in total store services from the previous year, and it served 26,243 people in its store.

At the Food Bank, children under 18 make up 33% of the customers; seniors account for 12%; and adults from 18 to 55 make up 55% of visitors. Clients list the lack of affordable housing in the community as the No. 1 reason they visit the food bank.

Missoula Aging Services supports many needs of seniors, including health and nutrition, and it relies on individual donations along with federal, state and local funding. 

The Meals on Wheels routes can be done alone or as a team, with one person running the food to the doors.

Call Missoula Aging Services at 406-728-7682 for more information.

Keila Szpaller contributed to this story.

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