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Meals on Wheels program ups its game as COVID-19 threatens its most vulnerable clients

A dedicated crew of volunteers are actually delivering more meals now
steering wheel woman stock

Meals on Wheels, a food delivery service for seniors, people with disabilities, caregivers and those convalescing, is still operating at this time. 

The service has temporarily suspended their hot meal program and is instead providing clients with a 1-week supply of frozen dinners. Clients at highest risk for food insecurity have the meal delivered to their home along with a care package provided by the program. 

This happens one time per week to minimize contact, while also ensuring that clients have enough food. Clients are also given the option of picking up frozen meals from the facility if they have family or friends that are capable of doing so. 

We asked program coordinator Kendall Pickering about any special changes they are making to help with the COVID-19 situation.

“Volunteers are calling all 120 of our clients every 2-4 days, depending on their circumstances, to provide a wellness check,” she said. “If they are concerned about a client’s well-being, they notify me at the office and I intervene as necessary. Many clients are so grateful to have someone to speak to as some are feeling worried and even more isolated than usual. The calls provide a sense of comfort for our clients as well as for family members who know that someone continues to check in on them. Many buildings that we are delivering to are not allowing anyone in other than residents, so in these circumstances we call the client and wait for them to come downstairs and place the box on their walker. In following social distancing guidelines, some boxes are left on door steps and then we wait at an appropriate distance for the client to retrieve the box so we know they are alright. How we make the delivery depends on each client’s circumstances. I, as well as my volunteer, go through a screening process every day we deliver to ensure we aren’t exhibiting any symptoms. We make sure to sanitize our hands before and after we make each delivery.”

The frozen meal program costs $7.25 per meal and that includes a soup, entrée and dessert. There is no fee for the delivery as the meals are delivered by a dedicated group of volunteers.

Pickering says that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, they were delivering hot meals to 120 clients, 5 days a week. This past Friday they provided more than 200 frozen meals to the community. 

“I have concerns for the safety of clients as the majority of them are seniors who are at risk of becoming seriously ill should they contract the virus. That’s part of the reason why I made the decision to suspend daily deliveries,” she said.

“The volunteers of this program have done so much for this community, and I feel strongly that they should be self-isolating at home right now without the fear of becoming ill. They shouldn’t have to make the choice of whether to continue delivering, or to follow Algoma Public Health’s recommendations to stay home. As the Program Coordinator of Meals on Wheels, I felt that I had a responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone involved, clients and volunteers alike. I’m confident that the way that we’re operating the program right now is the safest way. We continue to be in touch with clients and families to make sure that everyone is taken care of. Things are obviously changing on a daily basis and we will adapt to the situation as need be. I want everyone to know that Meals on Wheels will continue to be here for the community during this difficult time.”

Pickering would like to take this opportunity to thank volunteers Maria B., Judith M., Susan M., John J., Gale D. and Mike B., who continue to check in on their clients. In particular, she would really like to thank Jon J. for his selflessness during this time, as she wouldn’t be able to pull this off without him.

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Zaafina Naqvi

About the Author: Zaafina Naqvi

Zaafina Naqvi is a writer and editor at SooToday.
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