Meals on Wheels has become an even more essential resource during the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The volunteer-run not-for-profit has been delivering nutritious, affordable meals in the Huntsville area since the 1970s.
The first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 caused Meals on Wheels services to temporarily shut down—although volunteers did create a phone group to check in with clients to make sure they were okay and to ask if they needed anything from local stores—but the organization is back to providing regular service and is more needed than ever.
“We have been lucky to have so many volunteers for Meals on Wheels,” said driver and schedule coordinator Patrick Flanagan. “During the pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of clients, but an even larger increase in the number of volunteers. Some have told me they welcome the chance to get out of the house, and get great satisfaction from helping vulnerable members of the community.”
Each hot meal includes a soup or salad; meat, fish or poultry; a vegetable and a starch like potatoes, pasta or rice; a tea biscuit or muffin; and dessert. You can sign up for as many or as few days as you want and they take care of any preferences or dietary restrictions.
Meals are delivered at around noon, Monday to Friday, and they welcome clients of any age. The program most often serves seniors, people with physical disabilities and cognitive impairments, individuals suffering from illnesses and recovering from surgeries, and those who need special dietary planning and assistance.
“Our objective is to serve everyone who needs this in our community, but we are also always happy to take on more volunteers,” said local chair John McCaig.
With current COVID restrictions, volunteers aren’t able to go into clients’ homes, and instead leave meals at the door. For sanitary reasons, Meals on Wheels has had to switch to disposable containers—they can no longer use reusable packaging and return it to the hospital after the client has eaten.
Although the cost of producing the meals has increased for the organization itself, they are still charging clients the same price—$5 per meal.
To avoid raising prices for clients, they have been applying for more government funding. Meals cost about $1.50 more per meal to produce, adding up to an additional cost of $6,000-7,000 per year.
“I want to emphasize how amazing our volunteers are,” said McCaig. “We have our people who do the scheduling, people who organize new clients, our drivers, and treasurers. I’m just the link to the government but our volunteers deserve the recognition.”
To sign up for meal delivery, contact Lois Swann at 705-789-5681 or email@example.com. If you’re interested in becoming a local Meals on Wheels volunteer, contact Lynda Arnold at 705-635-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information about the organization, contact John McCaig at 705-571-2728 or email@example.com.
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