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‘AniMeals on Wheels’ helps seniors and disabled feed their pets

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Holiday giving can get contagious. That’s what many volunteers with Meals on Wheels discovered as they made their rounds in recent years and found that a growing number of the low-income shut-ins they feed were giving their food to their furry friends. That prompted the Helen Woodward Animal Center in San Diego to start up AniMeals, which partners with shelters and other pet groups to provide food for clients’ dogs and cats.

According to the Associated Press via the Los Angeles Daily News:

Partner pet groups will solicit, pick up, pack and get the animal chow to Meals on Wheels or another agency that donates food, volunteers said. Agencies also take pet food to nursing homes, senior centers or community centers.

Those who qualify for Meals on Wheels or similar programs are almost always eligible for a free pet food program.

Charles Gehring, CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based LifeCare Alliance, notes it is not uncommon for low-income seniors or people with disabilities to feed their pets instead of themselves. “Pets are so important to our seniors,” he said. “They are social workers, depression counselors, a lifeline for a lot of them.”

The article notes that it takes 40 volunteers to collect 3,000 pounds of donated dry food and about 3,200 cans of wet food for dogs and cats each month. Jessica Gercke of the Helen Woodward said that the biggest challenge is getting donations.

Some groups and shelters offering pet food programs nationwide have gotten a boost from Banfield Charitable Trust grants, offered since 2007. It’s given funding to a social services department in North Carolina and LifeSpan Resources in New Albany, Ind., a nonprofit providing information and assistance to seniors and the disabled, as it tries to get its program up and running.

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