In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the Albuquerque Meals on Wheels staff work to ensure meals are delivered to those who need it.
By 9 a.m. on March 25, the kitchen staff was preparing hot meals and packing them into insulated bags to be distributed to drivers. A workforce of about ten members scooped spaghetti, ladled marinara, and dished up vegetables with rigor.
“Usually, the kitchen is half staff and half volunteers,” Shauna Frost, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels Albuquerque said.
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Meals on Wheels has decided to limit the kitchen workers to only staff to reduce the number of people in the room at a time. Despite their reduced numbers, the kitchen staff filled their order, and dozens of coolers and bags were hauled off to be delivered.
While there may have been no volunteers in the kitchen, there were plenty outside. Trucks, sedans, and even sports cars lined the parking lot waiting to receive their orders.
“Today we are trying something new: drive-thru pickup for our volunteers,” Frost said.
Cones were set up to guide volunteers to the two-vehicle loading bay where boxes of food sat, ready to be distributed. Each box had a route number, and each volunteer had a route assigned. The cars pulled up, pair after pair, and were loaded up with their packages.
Even in a dark and uncertain time in the nation, the atmosphere of the operation seemed wholesome and appreciative. The camaraderie of the staff shone through as many of them credited each other as essential to their mission. The volunteers greeted staff with smiles and enthusiasm.
“Thank you for everything you guys do!” a volunteer driver said to Frost as she loaded up her car and drove away.
The bags are packed with more than just food. Gloves, hand sanitizer, and literature on social distancing are all provided for the volunteers. A copy of the Albuquerque Journal newspaper is also included for recipients.
“[Volunteers] have gloves and hand sanitizer for themselves, and what they’ll do is go to the door and hang up the bag, knock, and step back six feet,” Frost said. “We still can’t leave food unattended, and it’s also a good way to do a wellness check.”
The Meals on Wheels program serves over 600 meals per day, according to Frost. Those in need sign up online, enter their dietary information, and are assigned a menu that can accommodate it. In a world where leaving home is increasingly dangerous for those at high risk for the virus, the food delivery system is more essential now than ever.
To sign up for the service, or to donate or volunteer, visit mow-nm.org.
Liam DeBonis is a freelance photographer at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @LiamDebonis