Last year, Marion Polk Food Share’s Meal on Wheels program was busier than ever. The arrival of COVID brought an increase in the need for food throughout the community, including among our senior population. As seniors remained at home in order to avoid virus exposure, demand for home-delivered meals reached unprecedented levels.

Before the pandemic, volunteer drivers were delivering about 450 daily meals to homebound seniors and disabled adults in Salem and Keizer. Now, over 750 meals are being delivered every day to the doors of the most vulnerable members of our community.

“We never expected to do those kinds of numbers on a daily basis,” says Mel, the Food Share’s Meals on Wheels Program Manager. “We’re feeding a lot of people every day.”

The increase in need for home delivery was in large part a result of the closure of meal sites. Before COVID-19 arrived, two congregate meal sites in Salem were serving about 200 seniors every day. When those meal sites closed, many seniors began to rely on volunteers to provide home delivery.

The drastic increase in demand was met thanks to an incredible amount of support from our community. More volunteers than ever before stepped forward to support Meals on Wheels by helping deliver healthy, nutritious meals every day.

In fact, over 200 Meals on Wheels drivers volunteered 26,000 hours over the course of the year and delivered 61% more meals than they did in 2019.

Funding from the Barbara Emily Knudson Charitable Foundation, Bethel Heights Vineyard, Inc., Kaiser Permanente, Meals on Wheels America, Salem Alliance Church and individuals like you has made it possible for Meals on Wheels meet this unprecedented demand, providing vulnerable seniors with nutritious food, friendly visits and safety checks that promote health, independence and social well-being.