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Meals on Wheels works to keep up with demand

Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque staff members. Staffers are
now responsible for deliveries once carried out by volunteers. (Courtesy of Meals on Wheels Albuquerque)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

“Busy and hot.”

That’s how Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque executive director Shauna Frost describes current working conditions for the organization’s staff members.

Since mid-March, when the first COVID-19 cases appeared in New Mexico, demand for the organization’s services has ballooned, with staff members fielding 300% more calls and preparing an extra 1,000 meals for delivery each week, Frost said. Pandemic-induced social distancing and isolation has contributed to the increase.

Stacks of meals wait to be delivered to Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque clients. A week’s worth of food is now delivered at one time, which has limited contact between clients and volunteers. (Courtesy of Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque)

“We would get people calling, and they would cry,” Frost said. “They would cry on the phone because they didn’t know what they were going to do if we couldn’t help them.”

The need is still there.

“It’s really hard because we have limited funds,” Frost said. “We pay for our food. We don’t receive donated food because we have the medically tailored meals and we need to know what’s in there.”

As the organization is in overdrive to keep up with demand, it has also had to reorganize the way services are provided. Hot meals once delivered daily by volunteers are now delivered frozen seven at a time by staff members, Frost said.

Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque has moved to weekly deliveries for clients. Meals are now frozen and packed in coolers. (Courtesy of Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque)

Even with the limited funds, the organization has been able support the local community by purchasing local foods and including them with deliveries.

Those who don’t meet the organization’s criteria are directed to other organizations that can help. Still, the organization is currently serving 650 clients – and Frost said they could serve even more.

“We definitely have the capacity to do more,” she said. “It’s the funding that prevents us.”

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