Meals on Wheels deliveries continue with extra precautions

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Meals on Wheels will continue deliveries during Minnesota’s stay at home order, which starts on Friday. The organization said it’s an essential service with some relying on deliveries for their daily meal.

“We also want people to know that Meals on Wheels is able to serve more clients, especially those at high-risk during this pandemic,” said Lauren Hauter, the Metro Meals on Wheels marketing and development director. “And those that are able to pay and will use the service to isolate themselves as directed, are subsidizing a meal for someone that wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise.”

She said through their 32 member programs, they’re delivering meals to 7,200 seniors and people with disabilities.

Over the last week, they’ve been signing up about 20 additional people each day, a big increase considering Hauter said they usually sign up about 20 people per week.

There’s also been a surge in volunteers. In the last 10 days, they’ve had more than 2,000 people sign up to help.

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“We want to make sure they’re able to do their job safely,” said Grant Boelter, the Meals on Wheels communications manager.

The organization implemented social distancing practices about a week and a half ago. Volunteers are now dropping off food at the door and then backing up six feet to wait for the client to come to the door to grab it.

Meals on Wheels is also providing volunteers with bottles of hand sanitizer, through a donation from Du Nord Craft Spirits in Minneapolis.

“We couldn’t get it on the open market,” said Boelter. “It’s going to be a huge boost.”

The company manufactured nearly 1,000 bottles for the volunteers to use between deliveries.

“Most of our business evaporated overnight and that’s a crisis but it also was an opportunity,” said Chris Montana, the owner of Du Nord Craft Spirits. “We made the decision that we wanted to try to get as much of this made as possible and get it into the hands of those who needed it.”

He said it was relatively easy to make but the difficulty moving forward will be paying for the manufacturing and packaging.

Still, Montana plans to continue giving it to Meals on Wheels and other organizations.

“We saw there is a need, all the way from the Department of Defense down to your local post office,” he said. “We have the licensing for it, we know how to handle the material so it was kind of a no-brainer.”

Volunteers from Disabled American Veterans loaded the trucks and brought the hand sanitizer to at least 25 different Meals on Wheels delivery sites.

“It’s really incredible and just to think that they’re willing to donate this when it’s a difficult time for them,” said Boelter. “It’s hard for us to say how grateful we are for that, it’s amazing.”

Meals on Wheels partners continued deliveries on Wednesday. Community Emergency Service loaded up at least 275 meals to hand out, just like they do every day.

“We’re taking more precautions,” said Chris Nelson, the director of development at CES.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS shadowed him on a delivery route as he practiced social distancing. He showed how he calls clients from the sidewalk to let them know he’s dropped off their meal.

“We hope that we can continue to serve them in the continued days because they really can’t get out and get their own food and supplies,” he said.

According to Nelson, they are also delivering more frozen meals to limit contact. They’re dropping off a three, five or seven-day supply of meals.

For more information about how to access meal deliveries, click here.

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