Since 1994, One Good Meal has provided more than 800,000 free hot meals to Lee’s Summit-area seniors and those who are homebound. The organization delivers around 130 meals a day, five days a week — rain, snow or shine.
But One Good Meal delivers much more than food. They also offer connection, friendship and, often, a lifeline for those they serve.
“We engage our recipients in conversation and work at combating the loneliness factor our seniors have,” said Roberta McArthur, who co-founded One Good Meal with her mother, Betty McKnought. “That five-minute conversation can be the highlight of their day and give them something to look forward to.”
One Good Meal’s success is the result of a community of partners. In addition to the financial support of donors, McArthur works with more than 150 volunteers. That team includes 80 bakers who make homemade desserts to accompany the meals, and 55 drivers who assemble and deliver the meals.
“My volunteers are the most important people in the world,” McArthur said. “They’re the foundation of this organization.”
From the time McArthur and her mother founded One Good Meal, the Martin Luther Lutheran Church on Blue Parkway has provided their fellowship hall each week where meals are assembled and staged for delivery. The church also provides storage space for frozen foods and supplies.
The Hy-Vee on Rice Road has prepared and donated hot food for the meals since the organization’s founding. McArthur also works with Hy-Vee kitchen staff to plan monthly menus.
Marlo Polc, Hy-Vee catering manager, has worked with the group for more than 10 years.
“One Good Meal provides a great service to Lee’s Summit,” she said. “Hy-Vee has enjoyed being a partner and helping Roberta fulfill this mission.”
That mission includes organizing the delivery of 670 meals a week. McArthur developed and oversees the operation, which is carefully coordinated and well-oiled with laughter.
At approximately 10:15 each morning, Hy-Vee delivers the hot food in large insulated carriers to the church, where volunteers are already at work individually bagging desserts and rolls or bread. Once these items are ready, volunteers arrange the hot meals in to-go boxes during a brisk, seamless assembly-line process. The boxes are stacked in coolers and then delivered to recipients who live in more than a dozen areas throughout the city.
“In 15 minutes, we dish up 130 meals and our drivers are out the door,” McArthur said. “Putting the meals together is the most fun I’ve ever seen.”
Terry Hubbard has volunteered with the organization for more than six years. The Lee’s Summit man enjoys the camaraderie of fellow volunteers who share a heart for service.
“I do this to give something back,” Hubbard said. “My mom and dad were this way. Each morning, my mom would get up and pray, ‘Lord, send me someone I can help today.’
“Besides, I’m doing a lot more good than sitting at home and watching ‘The Price is Right.’”
According to McArthur, a family friend provided the inspiration for One Good Meal.
“My mom and I had a 93-year-old friend who broke her hip. She was sent home from the hospital with no way to cook for herself. So, we brought her meals. Then, we started to help five other women in similar situations. The need was amazingly eye-opening for us.”
Since its founding, One Good Meal has experienced a 10 percent growth rate each year for the past 24.
“The hardship is huge,” MacArthur said. “There are more people in need than we can serve, but, right now, I don’t have the drivers or the finances.”
McArthur attributes the increased need for her services to a number of factors.
She says many seniors planned for their retirement but didn’t expect to live as long as they have, and the cost of living has also increased.
“We serve a number of our seniors who have outlived all of their children and they’re really all alone,” she said. “It’s very sad.”
For information about donating or volunteering, contact One Good Meal at www.onegoodmeal.org.