Winter is coming and Citymeals on Wheels is getting the most vulnerable New Yorkers ready for a potentially harsh, frigid season.
Dozens of volunteers and staff from the nonprofit group prepared thousands of vital Emergency Food Packages (EFPs) at their Bronx meal distribution center last week for homebound, elderly New Yorkers.
With the threat of COVID-19 still casting its shadow over the Big Apple, Citymeals believes that, coupled with the winter storms, this season is particularly brutal for older adults who are isolated from the outside world, so they depend on food to be delivered.
“As the pandemic continues into its second winter, making sure our vulnerable older neighbors have nutritious food on hand is absolutely essential,” said Citymeals on Wheels Executive Director Beth Shapiro. “The 20,000 homebound elderly New Yorkers we serve are the hidden hungry–no longer able to shop, cook or even walk to a food pantry. These special care packages ensure they have food in their cupboards and a nourishing lifeline when they need it.”
On Oct. 5, the Bronx Emergency Meal Distribution Center was bustling with activity as boxes filled with non-perishable food were packed, sealed, and stamped for over 20,000 recipients. Within these life-saving boxes were nutritious meals including chicken and salmon, brown rice, vegetable cups, applesauce, oatmeal, and treats like cocoa and low-sugar cookies.
“This is our four-meal emergency food package that we are going to be distributing to our homebound seniors. We have some nutritious items, but goodies also,” said Liz Cantillo, operations manager of the Citymeals Emergency Meal Distribution Center, showcasing an Emergency Food Package. She added that the items are not just bland shelf-stable food, but are also well-balanced delicious items — from hot chocolate for those cold nights to ready-to-eat meals like chicken and lasagna.
Since the start of the pandemic, 4.3 million meals have been delivered to seniors (a 10% increase since 2020) who are at risk of hunger. Some of these older adults live on a fixed income as well as being unable to leave their homes and purchase groceries on their own, leaving about 14% of them to consume just one meal a day, according to Citymeals.