Joint Study with Meals on Wheels America on Effective Modes of Meal Delivery Receives $4M in Funding

Brown University’s Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research and Meals on Wheels America have announced a collaboration on a three-year research initiative to investigate the most effective mode of meal delivery to support older adults’ ability to age in place in their homes and out of institutional settings. This research is made possible through a $4 million funding award approved for Brown University by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The study will compare the impact of daily Meals on Wheels home-delivered meal service – complete with socialization and a wellness check – with bi-weekly frozen drop-ship meals.

The research team will conduct a randomized control trial with the participation of local Meals on Wheels programs. 2,300 older adults currently on waiting lists for services at the selected programs will be randomly assigned to one of the two groups. The first group will receive daily delivery of meals from Meals on Wheels, five days a week, while the second will receive a shipment of 10 frozen meals – supplied by TRIO Community Meals – once every two weeks. Funding for the meals – a necessary component of this project – has been made possible through financial support from AARP and AARP Foundation. To better understand the effectiveness of each mode of meal delivery among the two groups of participants, researchers will examine differences in healthcare utilization, as well as healthy days in community, feelings of loneliness and overall quality of life.

“Healthcare entities are more and more frequently contracting with community-based organizations to provide home-delivered meal benefits, and Meals on Wheels America is excited to work with our long-time partner, Brown University, on this important initiative to improve understanding of which type of meal delivery results in the best health outcomes for high-need individuals,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO, Meals on Wheels America. “PCORI’s funding of this project will build on our earlier More Than a Meal® research efforts and contribute substantially to the body of evidence exploring the impact that Meals on Wheels’ unique service model has on the health and well-being of at-risk older adults and their ability to remain safe and independent in their own homes, while reducing utilization of high-cost acute and long-term care services.”

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Meals on Wheels America to examine the comparative effectiveness of the two predominant modes of meal delivery on preventing hospitalization and nursing home placement,” said Kali Thomas, Associate Professor in the Brown School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study.

“We are excited PCORI is building upon AARP Foundation’s original investment in the More Than a Meal® research that demonstrated the critical linkage between meal delivery, food security and social connection. Establishing the evidence base is key to scaling effective solutions,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President, AARP Foundation.

“This study was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and stakeholders in research, but also for its potential to fill an important evidence gap and give people information to help them better assess their care options,” said PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, MD, MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with Meals on Wheels America and Brown University to share the results.”

Meals on Wheels America and Brown University’s study was selected for PCORI funding through a highly competitive review process in which patients, clinicians and other stakeholders joined clinical scientists to evaluate the proposals. Applications were assessed for scientific merit, how well they will engage patients and other stakeholders and their methodological rigor among other criteria.

This funding award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract.

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions. For more information about PCORI’s funding, visit




Meals on Wheels America is the leadership organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network serves virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America’s seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. By providing funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time. For more information, or to find a Meals on Wheels provider near you, visit

The Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research is one of 13 nationally renowned research centers at Brown University’s School of Public Health. The Center studies the diverse health and social service needs of elderly and other persons with chronic illnesses. Since the 1980’s, its findings been valuable guides for government agencies making decisions regarding policy aimed at improving health and healthcare for our aging and disabled populations.