_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES _______________________


Meals on Wheels Holding Steady During Pandemic

VOLUNTEERS CONTINUE delivering meals and providing much needed friendly visits to isolated homebound seniors, all from a safe distance, as part of Meals on Wheels O.C.’s services.


BY LAURIE HANSON • January 11, 2021

In a time of greater food insecurity, Meals on Wheels of Orange County serves as a lifeline for seniors and their families now impacted by COVID-19.

“The need among our most isolated and vulnerable elderly neighbors has skyrocketed since the Stay-at-Home Order issued in March,” said President & CEO Holly Hagler, who has worked at Meals on Wheels O.C. since 2010.

“Demand continues – we haven’t seen a decline in the number of meals or people served,” she added. “There will be no return to ‘pre-pandemic’ numbers. We’re now producing about 9,000 meals a day – nearly triple our rates from before the outbreak.”

The demand is so great that Meals on Wheels O.C. has had to rent additional freezer containers to store meals before distribution throughout the community.

“Prior to the pandemic, we served nearly a million meals a year to more than 10,000 at-risk seniors,” said Hagler. “Because of the pandemic, we’re serving as many as 20,000 older adults and have provided more than 2 million meals since March 2020. That is about 45,000 meals each week that continues to be needed by our older adult neighbors.”

“To meet the exploding demand which began in March 2020, we increased the number of homebound older adults receiving three meals a day, 5 days a week through our traditional home-delivered Meals on Wheels,” she said.

In just a matter of days when the pandemic began, Meals on Wheels O.C. completely retooled their Lunch Cafés, which normally provide hot nutritious meals and socialization at 23 community centers in 20 partnering cities. They went on to provide a weeks’ worth of frozen “Grab & Go Meals” for curbside pickup at local community centers, according to Hagler.

“Thousands of older adults in our community live with food insecurity, not knowing where their next meal will come from,” she explained. “They didn’t know about Meals on Wheels Orange County until COVID-19 hit and they will continue needing nourishing meals and services beyond the pandemic.”

This is true for people like Wahida and her husband, who recently shared with Hagler, “No one was prepared for this to happen, but Meals on Wheels O.C. has been a blessing. They are delivering food to both of us and it is good! Without them, we just don’t know how we’d survive.”

The mission of Meals on Wheels O.C. is to nourish the wellness, purpose and dignity of older adults and their families in their community. They do this by delivering meals and supportive services through their Meals on Wheels, Lunch Cafes, Adult Day Services, and other programs.

“I love being part of our great mission at Meals on Wheels OC to nourish older adults in our community,” said Hagler, whose parents worked in the nonprofit sector and always stressed the importance of purpose and helping others. Although she worked in for-profit business for much of her career, while earning her MBA at night, she wanted to make a greater impact like what her parents valued.

“I made the move to the nonprofit sector more than 15 years ago and haven’t looked back,” she said.

“Here at Meals on Wheels O.C., we will continue to find innovative ways to serve meals, kindness, love and hope to those who spent their lives doing the same for our community,” Hagler said. “All of this has been possible through the generosity of our community – who continue to volunteer and make financial contributions.”

Hagler added that the nonprofit has an incredibly passionate team and Board of Directors who are dedicated to their purpose. She added, “It is wonderful to work alongside them to be of service in such a meaningful way.”

Meals on Wheels O.C. primarily serves adults age 60+ in the 20 cities of central and north Orange County, including Cypress, Buena Park, and La Palma. They distribute meals through partnering with community centers and through their volunteers, who deliver meals—and the warmth and connection of a friendly visit—to those who are homebound. Their nutritional balanced meals are developed by a registered dietician and are prepared in their 22,000 square foot community kitchen in Anaheim, according to Hagler.

In recognition of Orange County’s ongoing response to serving their most vulnerable elderly citizens during the pandemic, Meals on Wheels O.C filmed a short documentary, Step Up to the Plate: Our Community in Action, which can be viewed by visiting their website at www.mealsonwheelsoc.org. More information about their various programs, locations they serve plus information on how to donate or volunteer can also be found online as well.

“As a nonprofit, we are dependent on the generosity of folks right here in Orange County, as well as support from our county and city partners,” she added. “We really cannot overstate the importance of our community in continuing this critical work, especially as food insecurity grows due to the financial strains of the pandemic.”