'Kitchen of Opportunities' provides new opportunities for Metro Meals on Wheels

At a time when Meals on Wheels faces potential budget cuts under the Trump Administration, Metro Meals on Wheels leaders have whipped up a plan to get ahead of that threat, opening the “Kitchen of Opportunities” Wednesday--the first project of its kind. 

“We're really excited we'll be able to offer this new product to our senior neighbors,” Executive Director Patrick Rowan said.

The 3,800 square foot space nestled along the 3000 block of 4th Avenue South in Minneapolis is dedicated solely to preparing meals for the volunteer-driven, home-delivery program.

Inside the kitchen you may sometimes find chefs preparing baby back ribs, corn muffins, and coleslaw, while other times you’ll smell the makings of authentic fare from all over the world.

“We're getting more and more demand for east Asian meals, African meals and even Latino meals," Rowan said.

No matter what’s cooking, those who run the program say the Metro’s 6,000 annual clients can expect improved quality and consistency.

“A meal here is going to be the same meal as you get in White Bear, as you get in Edina or Minneapolis,” Brad Kerschner, the Meals on Wheels Coordinator, said.

The “Kitchen of Opportunities” ultimately allows Metro Meals on Wheels to cut back on the use of 22 private caterers –an annual savings of $200,000.

“That money can be reinvested in serving people who really need the services in the community,” Rowan assured.

The newly dedicated space also allows Metro Meals on Wheels to continue serving their expanding clientele.

“In the next 10-to-20 years we expect to see a lot of baby boomers retiring,” Kerschner said.

As it stands, chefs churn out 500 meals a day from the program’s newest hub. The goal is to ultimately prepare and deliver 1,500 meals daily. 

Anticipated federal funding cuts, however, could potentially harm the organizations reach.

“Our real concern going forward is the budget also proposes an 18 percent cut to health and human services, and that’s where funding for Medicaid and Medicare comes from, and that provides about half the services for meals on wheels,” Rowan said.

Pivotal to the services is Meals on Wheels' ability to accommodate a variety of preferences and medical needs.

“Mechanical soft diets, renal diets, gluten free, lactose, so providing special meals is very important,” Kitchen Manager Randi Long said.

Those distinct needs could grow with the Twin Cities senior population, which is projected to double by 2040.

“We also even provide halal meals, so it’s expanding!” Long said.

If you’d like to receive a meal, visit the Meals on Wheels website and fill out the online form or call Metro Meals on Wheels at 612-623-3363.

You can also email the program at info@meals-on-wheels.com.