For nearly 50 years, the VNA Hospice NWI's Meals on Wheels Program has provided a hot lunch and wellness check to homebound seniors and individuals with disabilities throughout Porter County. These week-day lunch deliveries make best days possible for nearly 215 seniors, helping them to maintain their independence and nutritional well-being.
However, volunteers started noticing that some of their clients were sharing their meals with their pets because they couldn’t afford pet food. So, VNA Hospice NWI decided to create, what they lovingly call the “Kibble Kitchen” for their Meals on Wheels clients to ensure that not only the seniors’ needs were being met, but also their beloved pets.
“A pet and a companion can make all the difference for a homebound senior. For some of our Meals on Wheels clients, the volunteer who delivers their lunch is the only person they're going to see all day. That wellness check and tiny bit of socialization is key, and if any of them have pets that's really their lifeline. Having the Kibble Kitchen just really improves their quality of life and allows us to make their best days possible,” said Amy Wulf, Community Liaison at VNA Hospice NWI.
In September 2021, VNA Hospice received a $7,500 start up grant from Meals on Wheels America to form the Kibble Kitchen. During the summer of 2022, VNA Hospice received a second start-up grant to keep the Kibble Kitchen going.
The Kibble Kitchen, which is fully operated by six very-generous volunteers including the program coordinator Valarie Bayer, has already had an incredible impact. The Kibble Kitchen currently delivers food and treats once a month to 36 pets. The program even provides prescription pet food for pets who have special dietary needs. Thanks to the Kibble Kitchen, there have already been several seniors who have been able to keep their beloved pets.
“I'm really excited about doing this-I am a huge pet lover. My mother had pets in her later years and I just can’t imagine what it would’ve been like if she had to rehome or give her pet away. It would have killed her, and I think that's what it’s like for so many of these people. Their pet is their life and I just want to help them keep their pets,” said Valarie Bayer, Kibble Kitchen volunteer and program coordinator.
There has been so much community support for the Kibble Kitchen, including wonderful partnerships with the Porter County Animal Shelter and Pet Supplies Plus. There have also been several organizations that have held pet food drives to help supply the Kibble Kitchen including; Vale Park Animal Hospital, the Valparaiso Rotary and Satellite Club, the Portage Rotary Club, the Valparaiso High School Key Club and Honor Society, the Wheeler High School Key Club, and MacLennan and Bain Insurance.
However, even with all of the generous donations the Kibble Kitchen has received so far, there is a need for sustainable, ongoing funding to continue supporting the 36 pets it currently serves but to grow to be accessible to all of the VNA’s Meals on Wheels clients. It’s up to the kindness of the community to ensure the Kibble Kitchen can keep seniors and their furry friends together. The Kibble Kitchen has already done so much for the 36 pets and their owners; there’s only telling how much more can be achieved in the future.
There are numerous ways to support the Kibble Kitchen. You can make a monetary donation on the VNA Hospice website by putting “Kibble Kitchen” in the comments box , or you can check out the Kibble Kitchen Amazon wishlist to donate specific items.
To learn more about the VNA Hospice Kibble Kitchen and receive updates on all the wonderful things the program is achieving, visit vnanwi.org and sign up for the VNA newsletter.