Delivering Meals and Smiles

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Woodside Meals on Wheels
City & State:
Organization Website:
Not Available
Organization's Mission Statement

Woodside Meals on Wheels delivers nutritious meals to homebound senior citizens in Bucks County, PA. As a result, clients can remain in their homes with a renewed sense of dignity and independence.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Woodside Meals on Wheels (MOW) is an organization dedicated to addressing the nutritional and social needs of homebound elderly citizens in Bucks County, PA. Working with a network of 150 volunteers and the Pennswood Village Retirement Community, Woodside MOW brightens the day for many senior citizens by supplying both a warm meal and the opportunity for social interaction. This all important service enables these at risk individuals to satisfy daily needs, while continuing to stay in their own homes. Our clients rely on Woodside MOW since they cannot prepare their own meals. Providing quality service requires coordination of a series of critical steps including registering new clients, updating client information, identifying menu requirements to the Pennswood kitchen, packing meals and scheduling drivers. The management of the logistics of these steps, while daunting in itself, is made more complex with the dependency on a large volunteer workforce. With different people doing different tasks on any given day, the process needs to be consistent and easy to use to ensure the dietary requirements of the seniors are met. The process used prior to our development efforts to support our clients was labor intensive and error prone. Information was maintained in three separate files operated by three different volunteers. Any changes to client information were emailed or phoned in to volunteers who updated their separate, redundant files. Because paper products were created well in advance, deleted or suspended clients needed to be crossed out on multiple forms. Similarly, new client records needed to be hand-written on all forms until a batch of new, updated forms were printed. Important information like dietary requirements and what items needed to be packed in each meal bag were not clearly outlined for the many volunteers. Multiple meal items had to be counted by hand for the kitchen to plan for the next day’s deliveries. Most importantly, the products prepared for volunteers were not designed around their needs. Fonts were too small for drivers and packers to read easily, critical information did not stand out, and redundant records were hard to synchronize. We applied Lean, Six Sigma tools to review the process and identify unnecessary and time consuming steps. We then developed a leaner process that would significantly reduce variation in product, reduce time and improve quality. Given the large number of volunteers who needed to use the system, we focused on delivering a capability that was easy to use, designed around the needs of the volunteers, minimized manual effort, and resulted in highly accurate meal content and delivery. To do so, our design included a number of process improvements such as:• A meal record that allows qualified MOW personnel to specify exactly what should be included in each meal based on meal type and dietary needs• A packing list created on the bag label for each client that shows what needs to be packed, e.g. diabetic or regular dessert, skim or 2% milk, low sodium, so that packers know exactly what food items to pick and pack• Tailored daily products that show only the clients who are being served that day rather than listing all clients and correcting the list manually• Dates automatically printed on all products rather than hand dating or stamping• Use of color on labels to indicate the type of meal each client should receive to improve accuracy• Automated, accurate counting of meal components and a report that can be mailed or printed for kitchen planning• History of the number and types of meals served for billing preparation and verification• “Flagging” feature that targets clients that require follow-up after hospitalization or other service suspensionTo facilitate the new process, we built a Microsoft Access database and application using Visual Basic and VBA components. The heart of the program is an integrated Access data base that included information about each client, dietary requirements, delivery instructions, billing information and specific meal components. From this single data structure, we generated all reports producing an accurate, consistent, professional looking product. To eliminate the need to write or stamp dates, we used the Microsoft Calendar control to select and print dates on schedules, labels and other reports. To increase data sharing without duplicating data structures, we employed the direct link from MS-Access to email to distribute Access reports among staff workers.When adding a new client, it is important to determine if the location is within our delivery area and to obtain very specific directions for our drivers. We built a link from our client data entry screen to MS Internet Explorer, exporting the client’s address to MS Maps. Our volunteers have immediate visibility to where the client lives and can get directions to that location, greatly improving accuracy and completeness for drivers who may not be familiar with a location.Data edits and drop down boxes were developed to ensure required fields are filled out, to minimize manual data entry and to improve accuracy. Front-end VB menus lead the user through the application in an orderly way, minimizing the need for training.We used MS-Excel for programmer/analyst documentation to assist with future application maintenance. A spreadsheet lists how all of the VB and MS-Access screens, macros, queries, and reports work together to perform each specific function. Similarly, user’s guides outlining the step-by-step operation of the system were prepared in MS-Word using exported screen shots from the application.Through the efforts of this two-person team, the following improvements resulted:• Improved data quality – All client data is stored once and used to produce multiple, accurate reports.• Agility – New clients in need can be added quickly and accurately. Clients’ service can be “suspended” while they are hospitalized and resumed easily.• Efficiency – Daily work can now be accomplished in less than half the time required by the former process. Clients can be moved easily from one route to another to balance delivery load. Meal requirements are counted and planned automatically and accurately.• Reduced variability – All volunteers work with a consistent set of products and all meal requirements are spelled out on the labels to improve accuracy.• Ease of use – The MOW application is easy to use and requires very little training. Perhaps most importantly, feedback from the volunteer team has been extremely positive. They have embraced the new tools and enjoy working in a less labor intensive environment. Lastly, the application is exportable and could easily support other MOW organizations in the area. Woodside MOW is very proud of its innovative effort and would be happy to share our experience with organizations facing similar challenges.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery