Meals on Wheels: Nourishing the Community
Nonprofit builds on 50-year delivering food to homebound seniors, disabled individuals
The harder it is to get out, the easier it is to run out — of bread, milk, eggs, meat, produce, and other pantry staples. For area seniors and those living with disabilities, routine trips to the grocery store are not only inadvisable, but nearly impossible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, Meals On Wheels Erie delivers the nutrition at-risk populations need to continue to carry out their day-to-day activities at home.
The nonprofit's 50th year in operation is proving to be its most eventful and impactful yet. With restaurant dining rooms closed and grocery stores potentially harboring several key ingredients for community spread (shared contact surfaces, overcrowding in the aisles), Meals On Wheels' mission is more important than ever.
"We've really stretched our wings in the past six months or so," says Wendy Wallace, Meals on Wheels executive director.
Volunteers deliver up to seven complete, balanced meals (protein, starch, vegetable, salad, beverage, and dessert) prepared by the LECOM Senior Living Center to homebound individuals in the City of Erie, Millcreek, Harborcreek, Lawrence Park, Girard, Fairview, Lake City, and Edinboro. Weekly grocery orders are taken Monday and Tuesday and delivered county-wide.
Through a recent grant from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, Meals On Wheels was able to supplement its regular deliveries with boxes of shelf-stable pantry items donated through the Second Harvest Food Bank.
All told, it's been a community effort. The current health climate has increased demand for new volunteers, and Wallace has been overwhelmed by the response so far. "We never turn away a volunteer, and could always use more, but they've been amazing," she said, noting the influx of recently laid-off and teachers among the people of "all different backgrounds" lending their aid in a time of need. "These people are putting themselves at risk; they really are our heroes."
Volunteers are provided masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers to protect themselves while out making deliveries. The community has generously helped reinforce supplies of these essentials, with private donors crafting homemade masks and Five & 20 Spirits & Brewing in Westfield, N.Y. providing three gallons of sanitizer manufactured through its distillery. "We've been so fortunate with donations," said Wallace.
Those interested in volunteering or receiving Meals On Wheels service can visit their website at mealsonwheelserie.org or call their office directly at (814) 452-6930, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Volunteers will be given over-the-phone training prior to making their first deliveries. Those receiving deliveries must choose whether they want three, five, or seven meals per week while indicating any dietary restrictions or preferences. Regular meals are $6.50 each ($2 for lunch meals). Grocery orders (from Giant Eagle or Sander's Market) will be charged a 10 percent service fee based on the total bill.
Matt Swanseger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org