Millions of old Americans depend on Food on Wheels for their food, and three-quarters of volunteers deliver food aged over 55 – but they stay home.
So students enter to fill in the blanks.
Just last month, around 60 of the 180 Mercer County dispatch volunteers had withdrawn, and around 45 new volunteers replaced them, including around 20 students.
Now on Monday morning, Nate Byrnes, 21, a biology major at the College of New Jersey, loaded a bag of isolated hot food and wheeled food cooler behind the 16-year-old Volkswagen and toured the city delivering food
“I’m trying to find something, anything, that I can do to help,” said Byrnes, who is increasingly worried when a coronavirus explodes across the state.
As an aspiring doctor and an emergency medical technician who was not certified enough, he was frustrated by all the ways he could help if he continued his medical education, or if he only took a little EMT test. faster.
“All the ambulance teams were really overwhelmed,” he said. “The ER is really being overwhelmed.”
Coronavirus also canceled its plans – tests were postponed and parades and events were canceled because the campus was closed for the rest of the semester.
When her mother showed a request for help from Meals on Wheels on Facebook, she couldn’t call fast enough. He attended the orientation the following day; he went out to give food two days later. He has been sending food almost every working day since then.
Meals on Wheels welcomed him with open arms, and the rate of new elderly residents requesting food shipments has tripled in the past month.
“I feel this is a very good way to be able to do something to help, especially when it seems like there are not currently many ways we can help,” he said.
Sasa Olessi Montaño, chief executive of Meals on Wheels of Mercer County, which serves 300 people mostly elderly, who live at home, said food delivery was “keeping seniors alive.”
Meals on Wheels of America serves 2.4 million seniors throughout the country. Although providing daily, hot, and nutritious food to people who cannot leave their homes has always been a life-saving mission, keeping elderly people healthy and healthy at home – and outside nursing homes – is now more important than ever.
“We are very grateful to have students who enter,” he said.
Many older volunteers expressed disappointment at having to stop their voluntary work – “they sent me an email with sadness,” said Olessi Montaño – but they were relieved and happy to hear that young people were increasing. “That really takes the edge of it for them,” he said.
“I don’t want to stop at all, but we know we have to do it,” said Ann Walker.
“It was a difficult decision,” added Bill Walker. “When you see someone every week for years, you become friends, and you know that sometimes you are the only person they will meet all day.”
According to Meals on Wheels of America, 59 percent of recipients live alone. On any given day, delivery volunteers are often the only people they see.
Kathleen Trainor, 86, from Ewing Township said that the food she sent from Meals on Wheels “was a savior.”
The trainer lives alone and uses a wheelchair to get around. Because he can no longer cook, food is his main source of nutrition. Every day, a volunteer knocks on his door to deliver a hot tray (usually meat or fish and two vegetables) and a bag of cold items, including a salad, a piece of fresh fruit, bread rolls, and drinks.
Trainor said he was looking forward to human interaction – volunteers were “very fun” – and they often stopped to talk or raise their dog, Duchess. Financially, it is also priceless.
A small number of Meals on Wheels recipients made voluntary donations for their meal costs, but Trainor, like the majority of Meals on Wheels recipients, got it free. The program is funded through a combination of personal donations and federal grants, and is open to anyone who stays at home.
To recruit students and other young drivers, Olessi Montaño called social media and asked volunteers to recruit their children or grandchildren.
“Some students come with their parents, or a friend, or importantly, but we certainly see an increase in younger volunteers,” he said.
This is not the first time this chapter has partnered with universities or students. Olessi Montaño has made nursing students “friendly visitors” to seniors – and food preparation for Meals on Wheels is based in the kitchen of the nearby Rider University. Still, this is the first time this chapter has targeted students to fill the important role of “boots” in shipping volunteers, he said.
In recent weeks, food delivery protocols have changed. Food is still sent every day, but there is no more chat at the door with the recipient. Food is left in a bag at the door, and volunteers retreat six feet to wait until the recipient picks it up. Shipping volunteers often use hand sanitizers and wear gloves or masks if possible.
Food is still cooked from scratch, but kitchen staff wear masks and gloves. Everyone’s temperature is measured every day, and volunteers wait outside in their cars when food is brought out.
Back at Walkers’ house, Bill fills his time by working on genealogy projects, and Ann has read more. There is a picture puzzle on the dining room table, and they take a walk every afternoon.
But Pedestrians felt itchy to return their Monday as usual, touring the city delivering food with a friendly side of conversation.
“We have to stop now, but we will come back,” said Bill Walker. “We only take long leave.”
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