One Good Meal
Serving One Meal at a Time!
Story by Ann Butenas
The organization is called One Good Meal, but it should be called Thousands and Thousands of Good Meals. For more than 25 years, One Good Meal has been delivering meals to Lee’s Summit’s shut-ins and elderly. More than 130 meals every day, Monday through Friday to those in need, regardless of their ability to pay. Because of this, hundreds of Lee’s Summit elderly residents have been able to remain in their homes, enjoying a better quality of life and enjoying healthy, home-cooked meals.
For Director Roberta McArthur, One Good Meal is a labor of love. “I would have doubted you a great deal if you had told me I would be running a charity. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Not only is there the satisfaction of helping a senior stay in their home, but also being there for caregivers who are lost in a totally new world. One of my greatest joys was getting an invitation to one of our senior’s weddings. Another was forcing the way into a PTSD ward for a senior in distress. Hearing the stories from these amazing people that could be lost is such a gift,” McArthur shared. “I have met a prima ballerina from Broadway and a concert harpist who helped develop PBS-TV in Chicago. The Harvey Girl was a shocker as well as the WWII vet. The warriors and the artists, the writers and the storytellers, they all contribute to what is never a dull moment with these people I serve.”
So, how did it all get started? McArthur traces it back to her mother. “Twenty-seven years ago, my mother, Betty McKnought, discovered a family friend who had been sent home from a hip replacement with little or no home care. At 96, she couldn’t figure out how to work the microwave. My mother came tearing in and in her best mom voice demanded a hot meal for Carolyn,” McArthur recalled. “That first meal was tomato soup, grilled cheese, and pumpkin bread. We served five women that summer and proved that our humble lunches made a great difference in their health and their loneliness.”
McArthur says her mother started doing research and found there was a great need for meals serving the elderly. “If you check on the website for the Division of Aging, you find that our seniors are living longer, and many are not prepared for outliving their income. It seems that growing old is almost an epidemic,” McArthur told me. “We complemented the work of Meals on Wheels. We started serving out of what is now 3rd Street Social restaurant, then moved to Lee Haven, and finally found a home at the Martin Luther Lutheran Church where we have been for 27 years!”
As the need among Lee’s Summit’s elderly residents grew, so too did One Good Meal. “We currently order 125 meals five days a week and we can handle more. We started with just two routes, and we run 12 now. There is always room for more, but we only serve in Lee’s Summit and Greenwood,” McArthur said. “We serve clients in need between the ages of 55 and 103, and any homebound who can’t help themselves. We also help grandparents who are back to parenting again. People experiencing homelessness know that we are good for a few weeks of help while they get their feet on the ground. And we work with a lot of community service volunteers, court-appointed, and college-bound.”
It’s a lot of work, and it requires a lot of volunteers. McArthur says she’s always happy to welcome people who are willing to help. “We are always on the lookout for bakers (125 desserts a day), more clients, drivers, and assistance in raising money. I know the price of meals is going up, but I truly want to keep the cost to my seniors at $4.50 a day. That’s a lot of money to raise to supplement the 63-percent of our clients who can’t afford to pay, or who receive a greatly reduced price,” McArthur explained. “We rely solely on word of mouth to find our clients. Everyone has a senior in their life. You may not realize that many times a senior will reach for junk food because it’s easier, skip meals because they can’t handle preparing one, or they’re just too lonely and depressed to bother with cooking. Check on the seniors in your life and let us know if we can help.” If you’d like to help, a good place to start is at onegoodmeal.org.