Meals on Wheels Adapts Services to COVID-19 Pandemic

by | Apr 23, 2020 | Aging & Independent Living

Susan Nocella and her Meals on Wheels team at Lutheran Community Services Northwest do more than deliver meals to homebound residents in Tacoma and Pierce County. They provide nutrition, social connection and community referrals that help vulnerable seniors remain independent.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the stay at home order was issued, the demand for home delivered meals jumped 60 percent.

“We went from serving around 50 clients to 80 clients. We’re delivering 900 meals per month instead of 500,” said Susan, who is the Program Manager. “And we’re still receiving inquiries for new service.”

Meals on Wheels driver Curt Jacobs dons protective mask and gloves to make a delivery at an apartment building.

Our Meals on Wheels program recently made modifications to keep clients and staff healthy and safe. Staff received COVID-19 training and adopted a “no contact” style of delivery–providing meals with as little human contact as possible.

Drivers wear masks and gloves, carry and use sanitizer, and they avoid entering residences as much as possible. Clients are phoned in advance of delivery and meals are left outside the door with verbal acknowledgment. If a driver must enter a residential building to deliver meals in a lobby, a physical distance of six feet is maintained.

The switch to no-contact delivery means that drivers cannot provide the social connection that many of our homebound elders need. Every week, Susan checks in with each client over the phone.

“Our clients have been very understanding and so appreciative that we’re taking these precautions on their behalf,” she noted.

Meals on Wheels is available to anyone in Pierce County who is unable to shop for or prepare meals for themselves. In addition to seniors and people with disabilities, this includes people recovering from surgery or illness. The client-selected frozen meals are nutritious and delivered weekly.

While many clients pay a nominal charge (about $5 per meal), our Meals on Wheels program is largely supported by private donations and grants from the Looney Family Foundation, the Puyallup Tribe, Franciscan Health Foundation and Pierce County Connected Fund..