MOORHEAD — Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has begun shipping frozen meals to rural elderly residents in an effort to fill a need in "food deserts" — areas that lack access to healthy, affordable food.

Kristin Schurrer, senior director of meals at LSS, said the "stars kind of aligned" with the new LSS Meals To Go program.

“This fits a need we’ve been struggling with for a long time,” she said. “Rural areas are getting more remote and having less options for nutritious food.”

Schurrer said because Meals on Wheels focuses on delivering hot meals within city limits, rural residents were unable to access the service. In addition, residents in remote areas may travel 40 minutes or more to reach a gas station, and even further for a grocery store.

Combine that challenge with medical issues regarding diets, and LSS thought this was an area that needed to be addressed.

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A partnership with Medica health plan launched in January to kick off this new venture for LSS. It consisted of working with hospitals that send patients home with 28 frozen meals upon discharge. LSS served over 400 meals through that effort, and is now expanding its shipment of meals made at Hilltop Regional Kitchen in Eagle Bend, a Minnesota town in Todd County.

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A lot of research went into the best way to ship the frozen meals, Schurrer said, such as what sort of box and ice packets are used to ensure food is not damaged. Shipping costs are built into the price of 14 frozen meals for $125.99, and waivers are available for the elderly who can't afford to pay. Schurrer said clients working with county case workers can qualify for waivers.

Customers can select from 35 different meals when placing orders that arrive on doorsteps in thermal packaging.

The program is available to anyone, but was created with older people in mind. It's initially being launched in Clay, Todd, Beltrami, Crow Wing and Pipestone counties.

Schurrer said LSS hopes to expand to other counties, but for now LSS is rolling the program out slowly to ensure there is adequate staffing. She said LSS could open another kitchen if needed, and added that she hopes other states, such as North Dakota, are inspired by the program and start their own.

Those interested can sign up online or get more information by calling 1-800-488-4146 or emailing meals@lssmn.org.

Seniors can select from 35 meal choices when placing orders through Lutheran Social Services' Meals To Go program. Special to The Forum
Seniors can select from 35 meal choices when placing orders through Lutheran Social Services' Meals To Go program. Special to The Forum