The social significance of food and eating in the lives of older recipients of meals on wheels

Academic Article


  • The purpose of this study was to explore cultural and social themes related to food and eating among older adults who receive home-delivered meals. Findings are based upon qualitative and quantitative data gathered on older adults being served by Meals on Wheels (MOWs). Findings focus on structural aspects of meals. Participants did not always eat three meals a day or consume meals at conventional times of the day, were indifferent to norms regarding particular food items for meals, often did not consume meals in the dining area, and turned the radio or television on during mealtime. Without others’ presence, the eating event may lose some of its social qualities. Participants relied upon physical cues and material factors in deciding upon the timing, content, location of and activity during meals. An additional finding was that some people shared their food with neighbors. Thus, MOW’S services performed a secondary function in that it enabled recipients to more fully participate in community life through engagement of mutual reciprocity with neighbors. © 1998 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Locher JL; Burgio KL; Yoels WC; Ritchie S
  • Start Page

  • 15
  • End Page

  • 33
  • Volume

  • 17
  • Issue

  • 2