Meals on Wheels is a nationwide program that seeks to bring food to those in need. Each county has its own specific branch that delivers relief to community members. It is primarily volunteer-based, meaning that the program is composed mostly of community members who want to help out in their local area.
Due to COVID-19, Meals on Wheels had to adapt to the new mask and social distancing policies implemented throughout the country. Greene County’s division of Meals on Wheels, directed through the Blueprints organization, has had a difficult time adjusting to the new measures, but has been recovering strongly as of late.
Stacy Stroman, an employee at Blueprints who oversees Meals on Wheels, said, “At one point, we lost around 68% of our volunteers.”
In the early weeks of lockdown, Meals on Wheels was not allowed to deliver meals for safety concerns. After the lockdown in PA was lifted in May of 2020, Meals on Wheels got back to work.
With the COVID-19 vaccine beginning to be distributed at a greater rate, Stroman anticipates that volunteer numbers will improve in the coming months. Despite the strain on the program, the number of meals delivered increased dramatically.
According to Stroman, an estimated 12,000 more meals were served in 2020 than in 2019.
“We’ve expanded our routes into 17 more areas of the community,” Stroman said.
Due to this expansion, since March of 2020, Meals on Wheels has taken on more than 133 new home meal plans. The Meals on Wheels program in Greene County is now more far-reaching than before, even with the trials of the pandemic, according to Stroman.
Stroman said the way meals are delivered has also changed. All meals are contactless to ensure that everyone involved is kept safe. A grab n’ go option has also been implemented to the main center so that people can receive their food as quickly as possible before returning home.
Stroman said that back in early January, the program had to switch from five day a week delivery to three due to the volunteer shortages. Since then, numbers have improved, allowing Meals on Wheels to return to 5 day a week delivery.
Stroman stressed the importance of volunteers involved with the program.
“We have a great team,” Stroman said, and that she is “very blessed” to have them.
Stroman said most volunteers are retired, but anyone of any age can help. A volunteer is able to work by themselves or with another individual.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Stroman said. “We have volunteers that have stayed since March, and we are very lucky to have them.”