KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The demand for home delivered meals to qualified seniors has nearly tripled in East Tennessee because of the pandemic.
On Thursday, the Douglas-Cherokee Meals on Wheels program received extra helpers as hundreds of meals were loaded and delivered.
WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare was in Sevierville on Thursday as the meals were taken there from Morristown.
The Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority reaches into six East Tennessee counties.
The community action committee receives federal and state funding.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Meals on Wheels Senior Nutrition program has never been busier.
By the week’s end, a record number of meals will be delivered to homebound seniors in half a dozen counties as a result of the pandemic.
“We have extra funding from the state. So we are giving extra groceries to each individual, they’re getting their meals along with extra groceries,” Megan Crosby, senior nutritionist, said.
Today, the Douglas-Cherokee Meals on Wheels staff recruited extra helpers from the agency’s Head Start program, it closed in mid-March as COVID-19 spread.
“Our director called and wanted to know if we would volunteer and do this while we weren’t working with the children. Thank goodness, it is something that we can do,” Leslie McFalls of Head Start said.
Some of the meals delivered today were prepared at the Douglas-Cherokee kitchen in Morristown. Over the last six weeks, food being prepared for seniors by Douglas-Cherokee has nearly tripled in the six counties served by the Community Action Agency.
“In the past three days we have added 15 people from our waiting list in the different counties. We are looking to add more this week,” Kate Luther, Douglas-Cherokee Nutrition Director said. “We are trying to help as many people as we can right now and keep getting phone calls daily.”
With the growing demand of food for shut-ins, extra meals will be cooked by local restaurants beginning next week.
In Morristown, Hillbilly’s Cabin Restaurant will start preparing nearly a hundred meals a week for Douglas-Cherokee.
Even though sit-down dining is now allowed at some restaurants on a limited basis, some eligible seniors for meals on wheels are reluctant to leave their homes and prefer having their food delivered.
“They’re starting to open everything back up, the government, but our elders aren’t comfortable yet, getting out and getting groceries. So, we are trying to make sure they have enough so they can stay home and stay safe,” said Megan Crosby.
In the bags of food delivered at a senior complex in Seymour are canned goods, extra bread, meat and vegetables. It’s enough food to last for a week.
For those volunteers from the Head Start program — they don’t necessarily view this as work. Instead, they consider it a service of looking out for one another.
“Sometimes that is what your calling is — to give back — It doesn’t matter who it is. It feels good to give back to those who need it, especially right now during Covid-19,” said Sabrina Hutson, Head Start teacher.
For the seniors, they were delighted to be visited and grateful for the meals.
“While it is going on we are going to get as much food to them as possible so they don’t have to get out,” said Kate Luther.