Meals on Wheels does the critical work of supplying food

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– PHOTOS COURTESY OF AGEWELL SERVICES UNLESS NOTED

By Cynthia Price

One of the things about social distancing that disturbs Kris Collee of AgeWell Services most is that delivery drivers for Meals on Wheels are no longer able to check on the people they bring food to.

Yes, it is a logistical nightmare to continue getting meals out to seniors in these challenging times, but right up there with addressing unplanned-for shortages and concern for her
employees is the well-being of people who have been unable to leave their homes much longer than the onset of the Coronavirus crisis.

“If I could tell people one thing it’s to check on their senior neighbors one way or another – maybe just a phone call. Try to make sure they’re all right because that was such a valuable thing our drivers did, and they can’t do it any more,” she says.

The tough decision to deliver less frequently was also made due to COVID-19 constraints, but that does not indicate that homebound seniors will get less food. For each Monday-Wednesday-Friday in the Muskegon, Ottawa, and Oceana delivery areas, drivers will leave two noonday meals, as well as the sack-supper meals for later in the day. They also drop off frozen meals for weekends, and Collee is delighted that they were able to deliver three extra shelf-stable meals intended for winter emergencies that did not happen this year, allowing seniors to stockpile them.

In a grand push, the drivers gave each of the seniors seven extra meals about a week ago.

Moreover, Meals on Wheels has now started a curbside delivery service, with the first taking place March 24 at the Muskegon Farmers’ Market.

During these events, people drive up and are asked their name and age, but there is no prohibition against someone picking up for an older relative or friend.

Planning for these pick-ups was going well, with the intent to purchase frozen meals from Gordon Foods, one of their vendors. When they went to place their order, there were none available. The staff went into intensive planning and pivoted to offering shelf-stable items they were able to obtain.

Collee adds, “We were so lucky the YMCA [Grand Rapids] stepped up with their Veggie Van too, because we don’t have a refrigerated truck.”

The upcoming schedule of pick-ups, all from 12:00-2:00 p.m., is: March 31, Orchard View Community Education, 1765 Ada, Muskegon; April 1, Four Points Center for Successful Aging, 1051 S. Beacon Blvd., Grand Haven; and April 2, Holton United Methodist Church, 9530 Holton-Duck Lake Rd, Holton.

The food  situation is typical of what an agency like AgeWell, which also offers ­ when there is no “stay home” order – wellness and exercise programs, a discount cafe, senior transportation, and more, faces during this pandemic.

“It behooves us to think bigger picture,” says Collee, “because short-term plans are going to change every day, and we’ll just have to adapt.”

Another casualty of the COVID-19 crisis is the annual Heels for Meals fund-raiser. “We really need funds right now. There is still grant money, but we need unrestricted funds in order to meet this challenge,” Collee says.

Both the Meals on Wheels Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mealsonwheelswesternmichigan/) and the AgeWell website (https://agewellservices.org) make it easy to donate.

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