This month, we had the pleasure of visiting Caitlin and the team at Meals on Wheels at their office in central Edmonton. REALTORS® have given over $20,000 to various projects since 2011 and funded the subsidy program at this year’s BIG Give in March.
If you’re not familiar, Meals on Wheels prepares, packages, and delivers meals in the Edmonton community. 70% of the clients are over 70 years of age, so the program largely supports seniors.
With a small but mighty team of a few kitchen staff and administrative team, the organization is largely fueled by volunteer effort. Volunteers follow direction from the chef’s to prep, prepare and package the meals, and a team of 27 volunteers deliver meals each weekday. In fact, the delivery volunteers are part of what makes the program at Meals on Wheels so unique – the volunteers often spend time interacting with the clients who may otherwise be isolated and who benefit from having a friendly person checking in on them as they deliver meals. Meal delivery empowers people to be independent and stay in their homes, integrated in the communities that support them, allowing them to thrive.
The subsidy program aids the 63% of service clients (which was 33,971 meals last year) who can’t afford their meal delivery at full or partial cost due to a variety of barriers. The cost of meals hasn’t increased since 1995 thanks to community support in funds and volunteer contributions.
Being a meal delivery service, many of Meals on Wheels’ clients are aging and have specific medical diets. Something we were totally impressed with on our charity visit was the attention to detail as to what considerations needed to be made for each diet. There were charts indicating what conditions may require different diets, the substitutions that needed to be made and an emphasis on still providing tasty food for all.
We also learned about the Grow a Row program which is an easy way for anybody with extra produce or space to grow produce to help Meals on Wheels. By donating part of your harvest or land for volunteers to grow produce, you can help keep food costs lower for the organization. When we visited we saw the Baker, Walter, preparing fresh rhubarb desserts because rhubarb is currently in season and they have received a lot recently. It was wonderful to see the excitement about keeping menus fresh, in season and new for the clients.
REALTORS® have contributed funds through the Foundation for years (as we mentioned above), but we also learned that there are lots of opportunities to help out casually or on an ongoing basis both doing deliveries and helping out in the kitchen. Feel free to reach out on your own or keep your eyes peeled for an opportunity to come together with fellow REALTORS® to lend a hand by preparing and delivery meals to those in need.