Wheeling in meals

The story about Meals and Wheels and how it came to be such an integral part of how the Cayman Islands cares for its indigent and poor is down to Martha McField’s determination to do something that would help others. From humble beginnings in Miss Martha’s kitchen, today the organisation serves 172 meals per day and is constantly expanding.

“We have been doing this since 1997 – taking care of mostly senior citizens who have a need for that meal, as well those who have a medical or physical condition,” explained

Beulah McField, who took over the initial operation from her mother who had started cooking and taking meals for her friends before she went to church, following the passing of her husband.

After the T.E. McField Youth and Community Centre was built in George Town, the government at the time asked Ms Beulah if she could develop community based programmes to run out of the structure. Meals on Wheels was subsequently launched by Ms McField, with help from her now-deceased mother. The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman also assisted.

“The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman was a partner in developing Meals on Wheels, along with Rehoboth, and the Govenrment and so it was a three pronged partnership,” said Ms McField. “The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman also funded us and continues to assist with drivers and other essentials, as do all of the Rotary organizations on Island.”

Another family connection that gave her a great sense of pride and motivation is that she runs the service out of a building that was named after one of her family members, the late Teacher McField,

Meals on Wheels takes referrals from the Cancer Society, Hospice Care, the Veterans Association, Social Services and Public Health. “It’s the easiest assessment ever. All we need to be sure of is that the person needs that meal,” says Ms Beulah.

Health Services Authority Nutritionist Bethany Smith also works closely with Meals on Wheels to ensure that the maximum nutrition is made available in the meals being served.

There are 134 volunteers that make the Meals on Wheels operation a success, ranging from cooks, to drivers.

Due to the logistics behind Meals on Wheels, the organisation operates like a well oiled machine, with the food being prepared in each of the ddistricts by people in the respective locales and drivers who pick up the food to take it to those in need.

Ms Beulah illustrated just how important the people behind the scenes were.

“I am grateful for the kinds of people we have working with Meals on Wheels. There are some volunteers like Ms Rose Stewart, who has been with us since 1999 and delivers meals even when she is on holiday from her job.

“It is a quite rewarding thing to be involved with. You get more than you put in,” says Ms Beulah

One memory that Ms Beulah says has always stuck with her is that of an older lady named Ms Madalyn.

“When I told Ms Madalyn what I was doing and offered to bring her a lunch, she said, “Thank you ma’am but I don’t eat from every and every body.” Not one to be discouraged, Ms Beulah said she had a feeling Ms Madalyn needed the meals and kept going to visit and check with her.

“One day out of the blue, Ms Madalyn called me for a meal,” exclaimed Ms. Beulah, whose amusement at how her friendship with Ms Madalyn had evolved was palpable. She explained that she and Ms Madalyn became very good friends. “We began sitting together and just talking for hours and I developed a longing to visit her every day.”

Ms Beulah added that during a very hot stint in Grand Cayman, the decision was taken by Meals and Wheels to get Cox to donate an air conditioning unit to her, “which I was extremely pleased about.”

Upon arrival at Ms Madalyn’s home to deliver the AC unit however, the door was found to be shut and there was no answer, after which tense moments of knocking and louder knocking ensued.

“I just felt something was wrong,” shrugged Ms Beulah, “We broke in the door and there she was lying dead on the floor.”

As a result Ms Beulah said she saw just how vulnerable some of our community can be and that many times it is more than a meal they need. She articulated that just as important as the part Meals on Wheels’ plays in delivering of food, was their role in checking up on or looking out for those people who may be having difficulties accessing normal care.

“Thank God for giving us this life of helping others. There is nothing better,” declared Ms Beulah on the way driving up to Bodden Town to visit Hope Foster, who runs a kitchen that prepares meals for Meals and Wheels.

Mrs. Foster has been serving food from before Hurricane Ivan and told me all about the tasty things that are included on the menu each day.

“On Mondays we have some type of beef dish, while on Tuesdays it is usually some type of fish, then we will do a chicken on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday it might be some type pasta. All the meals are based on daily, nutritional value standards and we try to keep the salt to a minimum, as well as keep it low in sodium and spices.”

Meals on Wheels is supported by the Cayman Islands Government in addition to having its own fund raising branch, that relies on corporate donations, as well as those made by individuals. One thing that both Mrs. Foster and Ms Beulah agree on is that the operation goes through stoves. They explained that the hope going forward for Meals and Wheels was that it would be run from one central location.