At a time when many services and seniors programming are shutting down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmonton Meals on Wheels, Calgary Meals on Wheels and Heart to Home Meals are ramping up production to meet an influx of requests for meals from individuals and organizations looking for food security.
“There’s an exponential increase in demand for meals to seniors residences, and frozen entrees for individuals or groups,” said Liz Tondu, executive director for Edmonton Meals on Wheels. “Our staff and volunteers are working hard, and we are ready to meet the anticipated growth. We are here for the community.”
The same is true in Calgary, where an uptick in demand means that 55 year-old organization is planning to double meal production with a second shift of workers creating frozen and ready-to-eat meals.
“In coming days and weeks, we also hope to offer a discount to anyone who’s been laid off or quarantined—whatever we can do to reduce costs for people in these times,” said Stephanie Ralph, philanthropy and communications manager at Calgary Meals on Wheels. “We’re actually one of the few places in Calgary hiring right now. In the past 30 days, we’ve seen a 50 per cent increase in online ordering, so we want to be able to deliver to our core clients and handle the increase of those looking to fill their freezers too.”
Edmonton Meals on Wheels is expanding facility sanitation efforts around food preparation and packaging, as well as ensuring practices of social distancing are followed in the building and in the community when drivers meet clients. Drivers carry hand sanitizer in their vehicles and, to further reduce touch points, meal carry cases have been replaced in favour of bags for food delivery.
“From our kitchen, to the lunch room, our offices and the driver’s cars, we have made substantial changes to our operations in recent weeks. We remain committed to safety for our staff and volunteers, and to maintaining our core meal services to Edmonton’s vulnerable, homebound and isolated residents,” she said.
The small staff at Edmonton Meals on Wheels is supplemented with dedicated volunteers who help with kitchen support/prep and meal packaging, and driving/meal delivery. On any given day, Tondu said there are about 35 drivers handling delivery routes throughout Edmonton.
Working with a Red Seal Chef, onsite baker and skilled cooks, Edmonton Meals on Wheels offers two programs: daily meal delivery and frozen meals for delivery or pickup. The portion-controlled daily meals feature a flexible selection of salad, soup, entrees like shepherd’s pie or salmon, and dessert. Clients can order a double meal, breakfast add-ons and modifications to accommodate special diets and texture needs.
Frozen meals feature a selection of some 30 entrees featuring proteins like beef, pork, chicken and seafood, along with soups, desserts, vegetables and breakfasts. Every week, Edmonton Meals on Wheels goes through about 200 pounds of carrots, onions and celery, and delivers some 500 litres of soup.
“Our frozen meal program is available to clients in and around Greater Edmonton, including St. Albert and Strathcona County,” said Tondu.
While social distancing is key right now, Edmonton Meals on Wheels encourages the community to connect through social media or email at firstname.lastname@example.org At this time, Edmonton Meals on Wheels is calling for volunteers to assist in the kitchen, with meal preparation and packaging.
Ralph said the loss of social contact is unfortunate, as it’s a key part of the Calgary Meals on Wheels service. “We were able to put deliveries in people’s fridges and chat for a moment, but that’s changed for now. Until further notice, we’re able to drop meals in coolers on the front step, or hang a bag on the door.”
Last year, Calgary Meals on Wheels made 780,000 meals. Every day, a core staff and some 70 volunteers prep and/or deliver meals throughout the city with same day hot meal service. Frozen meals are available to order online.
Heart to Home Meals is a frozen meal delivery service in Edmonton (one franchise covers central and northern Alberta), based on a U.K. model and with Canadian headquarters in Ontario. Thousands of Alberta customers are already on-board, choosing from some 200 soups, entrees and desserts: mini (one serving) meals, standard or hearty serving entrees that include favorites like pot roast, homestyle meatloaf, hunter chicken, beef stroganoff and salmon in creamy dill sauce. Each entrée is paired with a starch and vegetable, insuring a nutritionally-balanced meal that is chef-prepared, inspected, and frozen for delivery—ready to heat in microwave or conventional oven.
The flexible program--with no minimum orders, no contracts and free delivery--means customers can order every week or occasionally, by phone or online. See hearttohomemeals.ca for more or call toll free 1-800-704-4779.