KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Seniors who depend on home-delivered meals are no longer receiving them daily, instead five meals are being delivered on Thursdays.
This week, WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare was there as the meals were packed and delivered to seniors in need.
For years, a dedicated group of volunteers have traveled all around Knoxville and the county provided hand-delivered meals to shut-ins who live in apartments and private homes. But since many seniors who receive food are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, the Knoxville-Knox County Office on Aging temporarily changed the delivery schedule.
On Thursday morning, it was busy at the Mobile Meals distribution center as boxes of meals were loaded into volunteers’ vehicles headed out to deliver the food on the new weekly schedule.
“This has five meals in them,” Russ Lewis, a volunteer, said. “They’re frozen. We used to do it daily. But now we do it once a week because of the virus.”
The change from daily deliveries of mobile meals to once a week was put into place to limit personal contact and lower the risk of spreading COVID-19 to seniors.
“We just deliver the boxes to them and don’t go in,” says volunteer Pat Land. “There are a couple of ladies we have to carry it in for them because they can’t carry it.”
This delivery plan of once a week is different for these volunteers because many enjoyed the one-on-one interaction of daily drop-offs.
“We don’t get to be around the people we deliver meals to, it limits contact as we go just once a week as we are doing right now,” volunteer Glenn Miller said.
These efforts are protecting seniors as well as the volunteers.
“We have been very conscientious of trying to take care of the most vulnerable population, our Knox County seniors. So we have transitioned to this plan,” said Judith Pelot, senior nutrition manager for Mobile Meals.
For Jim Gormley, a volunteer for 25 years, he misses the personal interaction with shut-ins many of them he knows personally. However, back at Mobile Meals center, daily wellness checks are made on the telephone by volunteers to seniors.
“The fact that they get to see me once a week and I can check on them. The other days they have people calling to check on them,” Gormley said. “So they are not being forgotten.”
Jim Rager, who lives alone, says he is grateful for the assistance.
“I couldn’t praise God more than this for what they’ve done,” Rager said. “The food is fantastic.”
“We will go back to daily delivery at some point in May, we are hoping,” Pelot said. “So we can get back to the face-to-face so our seniors don’t feel so isolated.”
About 1,400 meal boxes are currently being delivered throughout the city by volunteers to seniors in need.
“They’re just happy to see somebody, they’re happy to get a good meal and they know that I care,” Gormley said.
Since mid-March when the safer-at-home orders were issued by the state and local governments, the demand for Mobile Meals has grown in both Knoxville and Knox County.
Five new routes have been added and nearly 150 new seniors are receiving home-delivered food.
As a result, more volunteers are needed not only for deliveries but also to package the meals and to make wellness calls.
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