Elder Services' Kayla Brown-Wood, left, and a volunteer from the BFAIR day program deliver pet food to Carol Lecours, who is a member of the Meals on Wheels program.

Meals on Wheels Gets Pet Food Delivery Service

By Sabrina Damms
iBerkshires Staff
12:16PM / Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Laura Baran of BFAIR, left, Nicole McKeen of Berkshire Humane and Elder Services' Kayla Brown-Wood with a load of dog and cat food to be delivered as part of the Meals on Wheels program. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A new component to the Meals on Wheels program is keeping pets and their owners together. 
A collaboration between Berkshire Humane Society, Elder Services of Berkshire County, and Berkshire Family & Individual Resources (BFAIR) has established a pet assistance program for Meals on Wheels members.
Elder Services has been providing meals in Berkshire County since 1975 and, since 1994, has operated a kitchen on Route 7 in Lanesborough where the meals are prepared
Although the Tuesday delivery only consisted of Dalton and Pittsfield members it is open to all Meals on Wheels members in Berkshire County, including Lanesborough, Richmond, North Adams and Lee, Elder Services Community Services Director Kayla Brown-Wood said.
There are also several other towns in Berkshire County they hope to expand into, Brown-Wood said. To be eligible for this program you have to be part of the Meals On Wheels program. 
Meals are either delivered to the recipient's home, hence the name Meals on Wheels, or can be received at one of Elder Services' Nutrition Program Senior Dining Centers. More information here
The pet assistance program delivers pet food to seniors who are unable to go to the store to purchase food or visit the Berkshire Humane Society to utilize its Pet Food Bank
With price increases for groceries, some pet owners are struggling to feed their beloved animals so are sometimes forced to make sacrifices whether it's surrendering their dog or foraging their own food to give to their animal, pet assistance program leaders said. 
"I think most people would feed their pets before they feed themselves. So, this helps minimize that from happening," Brown-Wood said.
"It's just a really great collaboration and the idea is to be able to help those people that might not have the means to come here and visit the emergency pet food bank at Berkshire Humane Society. So, it's just another way to help bridge that gap and that need in the community."
Animals are an important part of the household as they provide comfort and aid in mental well-being, Nicole McKeen, Berkshire Humane's director of development and marketing, said.
"All of us are here probably because we have an affinity for our animals in our households and you just don't want to lose those members. We know that dogs, cats, and other pets in our lives are warming and also are really good for our overall mental well being," McKeen said.  
"Mental health is a huge issue and keeping your pet in your home will only help support that in a positive manner. So, that's why I think it's really important we make sure that we provide food for anybody that might be struggling or have that insecurity so they can keep those pets in the home."
Every first Tuesday of the month BFAIR's Community-Based Day Services Program participants will load and deliver pet food to seniors. 
The animals in our lives are family and should be taken care of along with the owners, the program's Senior Director Laura Baran said, "And we're happy to be a part of it."
The BFAIR program provides individuals with disabilities work opportunities in an effort to foster community engagement. More information here
"[The pet assistance program] is just a nice opportunity for us. I know the individuals are very, very excited about participating in it," Baran said. 
"We're so thrilled to be partnering with Elder Services and the Berkshire Humane Society and providing the service for the seniors in our community to be able to keep their pets at home."
Deliveries on Tuesday were made to 29 Meals on Wheels members and 43 pets. The Humane Society donated 18 bags of 18 1/2 pound dog food, 29 18-pound bags of cat food, and a case of cat canned food. 
The Meals on Wheels program and now the pet assistance initiative has been a "wonderful gift," Carol Lecours, Meals on Wheels and pet assistance program member, said. 
"It's wonderful. With the cost of groceries and things now every little bit helps and it's expensive but I appreciate it so much. It's a wonderful gift," Lecours said. 
CBDS program participants Hannah and Emilee Eichorn described the pet delivery service as a great initiative and felt grateful to be part of it. 
"I feel it's important to the community because we get to help out others," Emilee Eichorn said. 
The Berkshire Humane Society opened its Pet Food Bank in 1987 when it entered into agreement with Hill's Science Diet to feed that dog food brand to its shelter dogs. The Food Bank also has other donated brands that are given to community members in need. 
"If there's people out there having temporary issues, that's what the food bank is for. They can come to the shelter rather than surrender their pet. Obviously, it keeps pets at home, pet retention. You know, that's really what we've been focused on going back to probably 1987," the shelter's Executive Director John Perreault said. 
Something that has been sitting in Perreault's mind is how to improve access to this service to seniors who are unable to visit the shelter because of mobility issues. 
"I got thinking about the Meals on Wheels program where we have people that are great people that are going into people's homes, not only providing them with the meals, but some companionship as well," Perreault said. 
In January, Perreault reached out to Elder Services' Client Services Director Maureen Tuggey, who gathered the team to start planning. 
"We're really excited about this, keeping pets in homes and collaborating with not only the Elder Services and Meals on Wheels, but also BFAIR who gives us the drivers and the volunteers to make this happen," Perreault said.
"So I always say in a lot of my talks and speeches, that it takes a village to make a difference and the great thing about the Berkshires is we're pretty isolated and we have a lot of people that do collaborative work together and it shows that we can make a difference."
This initiative is just one example of the collaboration within the Berkshire County community, he said. 
"Berkshire Humane Society reached out to Elder Services, who has a connection to BFAIR, and collectively those three organizations are all working together to keep animals in some homes that are well deserved for sure," Perreault said. 


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