MEALS ON WHEELS CHICAGO CELEBRATES 35 YEARS OF SERVICE
(AUG 1, 2022) – This August, Meals on Wheels Chicago is celebrating an important milestone. For 35 years, the home meal delivery program has helped food-insecure seniors and individuals with disabilities stay healthy, nourished, and independent in their own homes. What started as a program serving 1,218 seniors a hot Thanksgiving meal in 1987 is now a program that serves over 13,000 people annually, making weekly deliveries that add up to 4.7 million meals each year to those struggling with food insecurity.
“The past few years have reminded us all how important it is to take care of our neighbors, especially our elders,” said Meals on Wheels Chicago Board President Shannon Murphy. “Meals on Wheels Chicago has a vital role to play in our community, and there are people benefiting from the program living in every neighborhood in the city. Even at the height of the pandemic, when we saw record enrollment numbers, no one was put on a waiting list. This is all thanks to the power of our community. When we all act together to support our most vulnerable neighbors, no one needs to go hungry.”
In the 35 years since the program began in Chicago, the need has grown dramatically. With 1 in 5 Americans 60 or older, 12,000 more turning 60 each day, and 7.4 million seniors living on incomes below the poverty line, more people are at risk of hunger an isolation than ever before. Half of seniors living alone lack the financial resources to pay for basic needs. That’s where Meals on Wheels helps bridge the gap, providing prepared meals to help ease the pangs of hunger and reduce the stress and anxiety that come with living on a fixed income and struggling to make ends meet.
The continued success of the home-meal delivery program is thanks to a large community of supporters. Individual donors, corporate sponsors, and foundations have generously donated their resources to keep the program going, and because of this support Meals on Wheels Chicago is expanding to meet new challenges.
This month also marks the official launch of Nourish Chicago, A Meals on Wheels Pantry, in a continued effort to put health on the pantry shelf for seniors. Nourish Chicago Pantry advances Meals on Wheels Chicago’s mission to improve quality of life and maximize independence for seniors in our community. The cost of food and limited transportation to full-stock grocery stores can limit a senior’s access to fresh produce and pantry goods, and seniors living on a fixed income are often forced to choose between food, medicine, and the cost of housing. With the added pressure of inflation and food costs rising sharply, many seniors in our community are making difficult financial decisions and forgoing trips to the grocery store.
In response, Meals on Wheels Chicago has launched the Nourish Chicago Food Pantry to help seniors stay nourished and independent. This pantry provides food and wellness essentials to seniors once a month at the Central West Senior Center. The Nourish Chicago Pantry operates on a client-choice model, which gives participants the autonomy to select the food they enjoy while also reducing food waste. The Pantry also offers animal wellness packs for cats and dogs that include a supply of food, preventative medicine, and toys to help take care of the pets that are taking care of their senior owners.
“We are grateful to our community of supporters who made this new program possible,” said Elise Geiger, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels Chicago. “The Nourish Chicago Pantry is allowing us to expand our reach by serving even more seniors in our community during a time of great need. We make every effort to ensure a wide variety of fresh produce and pantry goods are available every month, and we look forward to continuing to serve our community and to support seniors so they can age in place. The next 35 years will likely see more people relying on our program, and this is a big step forward in our effort to reach more seniors who need a helping hand.”
People aged 55 and older are welcome to attend the Nourish Chicago Food Pantry on the fourth Tuesday of every month from 1:30pm – 3:30pm at the Central West Senior Center located at 2102 W. Ogden Avenue in Chicago. Every senior that attends also has the chance to enter a free raffle for an array of prizes. The Pantry hours directly follow hot-lunch service at the senior center, and guests are encouraged to sign up for additional social activities and programs run by the center. The Nourish Chicago Pantry has already hosted three distribution events in May, June, and July and each event saw over 150 seniors in attendance.
Next Nourish Chicago Pantry Date: Tuesday, August 23rd from 1:30pm – 3:30pm
About Meals on Wheels Chicago: Meals on Wheels Chicago envisions a community in which all basic needs are met and barriers to achieving independence are eliminated. Our goal is to support programs that offer individuals a choice in their care and living arrangement, despite age, income, or ability level. We aim to relieve some of the financial hardship caused by social and economic injustices that exist in our society. Meals on Wheels Chicago has raised both private funds and awareness to accomplish our mission to ensure that both homebound seniors and individuals with disabilities benefit from programs that improve quality of life and maximize independence. Each year the home meal delivery program serves over 10,000 seniors living in Chicago. In 2022 Meals on Wheels Chicago is celebrating 35 years of serving our community.