As more seniors stay home amid COVID-19, Meals on Wheels depends on volunteers to serve them

The Centers for Disease Control say older adults are at a higher risk of getting sick from coronavirus and there are resources to help them as they spend more time at home.

However, some of those organizations are facing challenges you may not have thought about, including Meals on Wheels.

The company has been busy as more seniors opt to stay home. They depend on volunteers to help deliver thousands of meals each day. While the need is growing, volunteer numbers are not.

“It is probably the most important time we’ve ever delivered,” said Steve Griffiths, the president of the board of directors for Metro Meals on Wheels.

It’s a time of uncertainty for Meals on Wheels as they seek to make sure the food they deliver to seniors and those with disabilities is a constant.

“The reality for people is, if our people don’t get meals at home, their nutrition isn’t going to be where it needs to be,” he said.

Metro Meals on Wheels and its 32 member programs feed some 4,500 people each day by delivering hot meals to their homes. It’s a number they’ve already seen go up in the last week as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“We’re prepared to see an increase and we already have a little bit in individuals considering Meals on Wheels as a service that might be available to them as they don’t go out to the store or try to distance themselves,” said Lauren Hauter, of Metro Meals on Wheels.

Their clients are a population at a higher risk for COVID-19, but so many of their volunteers are also seniors.

“We’ve had people who have called in and are concerned, saying, I think I’m going to wait out what’s going on and then I’ll be back, so that puts us in kind of a pickle,” said Griffiths.

Without those volunteers, the program wouldn’t be able to help clients like 86-year-old Dan Thompson. While he is not letting virus panic set it, he’s not sure what he’d do without the help right now.

“They’re running out of toilet paper and this and that. I think it gets to a point that people have to sit back and understand that these things will happen in life,” Thompson said.

He’s not sure what he’d do without the help right now, but Meals on Wheels said they won’t let that happen.

“So, finding an on-call list of volunteers to call upon all over the Twin Cities not just one area in particular is kind of at the heart of our game right now,” Griffiths added.

Meals on Wheels hopes that the healthy people working from home can step up and help out.

If you want to volunteer, visit Meals on Wheels’s website.