Rowan Meals On Wheels facing challenges, stays on mission of feeding those in need

Executive Director Cindy Fink and volunteer Sheri Fowler pack meal boxes for delivery.
Executive Director Cindy Fink and volunteer Sheri Fowler pack meal boxes for delivery.(Rowan Meals On Wheels)
Updated: Apr. 18, 2020 at 8:11 AM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Social media is full of cartoons picturing folks who have overeaten during the COVID-19 “Stay at Home” order who won’t be able to get out of their door when the order is lifted. For those of us who have plenty to eat or can safely go out to buy groceries, we worry about our growing waistlines.

But for seniors who are homebound, disabled citizens who are unable to get transportation or are without caregivers, or for adults at high-risk for infection and should not leave their homes, food insecurity is more likely their concern.

Meals on Wheels Rowan is supporting Rowan County Citizens who need food. Requests and referrals for services average three-five per day. In place of in-home assessments, Care Coordinators are doing in-depth phone interviews and making services available temporarily for new participants who meet the age and nutrition requirements.

Dedicated volunteers are now delivering five frozen entrees with vegetables and chilled fruits and milk every Monday to over 250 participants. The once a week primary delivery is an effort to reduce contact and allow our volunteers to stay at home as much as possible. As of April 13, we began delivering supper and weekend meals to each of fifteen participants who are food insecure and at high-risk for infection.

During the week of April, 20 volunteers will also deliver weekend meals to 45 participants who are immune-compromised and need meals to get them through the weekend.

Volunteers continue to follow our “Safety First” protocol that includes physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and wearing masks and gloves. The staff at Meals on Wheels sourced heavy-duty plastic bags that could accommodate the larger meal boxes and be hung on a doorknob. All boxes are pre-packed in the plastic bags by staff and volunteers.

In addition, many volunteers who are not delivering due to the new meal schedule are making “Comfort Calls” to participants each Tuesday-Friday. One group of

volunteers is calling the folks on the route that they normally deliver so that the participant hears a familiar voice. All “Comfort Call” volunteers are provided with a script and instructions on how clients can reheat their meals. Calls are made between 10:30 am and 1 pm each day to replicate the routine interaction that volunteers have with participants and to remind some of the clients that it is time to eat.

Several participants have called the Meals on Wheels office to say, “It is so nice to know that someone cares.” or “My spirit was lifted to hear a familiar voice.”

Meals on Wheels is collaborating with Rowan Helping Ministries to get USDA Food boxes delivered to eligible adults who are high risk and should not or cannot leave their homes. Meals on Wheels staff is delivering the food boxes Tuesday-Friday of each week.

Meals on Wheels Program Director, Sandy Combs said, “We are also receiving requests for meals or food from individuals who are self-quarantined for protective measures. These folks do not qualify for USDA Food Boxes, but need groceries. Some folks can pay for their groceries and some cannot. But they cannot or should not leave their homes to get groceries. We are accepting referrals from other nonprofits, our church partners, and governmental agencies for adults who need assistance with groceries.

Thanks to recent grants from Meals on Wheels of America, Rowan County United Way COVID-19 Relief Fund and to a small cadre of committed volunteers, we are establishing a system to help adults, disabled adults and homebound citizens across Rowan County.”

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