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May 31, 2022

As Older Americans Month comes to a close, Meals on Wheels America thanks dozens of companies that supported seniors during this extraordinary moment and pushes to reach every senior in need of nutritious meals and companionship

ARLINGTON, Va., May 31, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Before the pandemic, some 2.4 million homebound seniors relied on the venerable network of community-based Meals on Wheels programs for nutritious meals and social connection. But, when COVID-19 struck, previously mobile and independent seniors were stranded as they isolated from the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus. With a staggering increase in demand nearly overnight, Meals on Wheels staff feared a full-blown hunger crisis. 

"They couldn't shop. They couldn't see family. Many couldn't begin to afford food delivery," explained Kathy Stirling, Director of Volunteer Programs and Corporate & Community Engagement at Meals on Wheels San Francisco. "We were extremely worried for the seniors we serve."

Fortunately, the public and private sectors of the nation rallied. The federal relief packages passed in response to the widespread health and economic effects of the pandemic nearly doubled funding for programs like Meals on Wheels. Individuals and corporations stepped up too, boosting private support for Meals on Wheels America by 350 percent over pre-pandemic levels.

This influx of dollars worked. Despite volunteer shortages and rising prices — problems that continue to plague nearly every Meals on Wheels program — this nationwide network dramatically expanded its reach. During the height of the pandemic, it provided about 100% more home-delivered meals weekly than before. That was while the network simultaneously pivoted operations — reinventing itself from the ground up to keep seniors and workers safe from COVID-19 — and sat up new initiatives to reach millions of additional seniors it never expected to serve.

"It was intense," said Stirling. "We were hardly sleeping. But we proved something to ourselves. With the right support, we can reach so many more people."

Even before the pandemic, millions of seniors were food insecure and not receiving the nutritional assistance they needed. Meals on Wheels simply couldn't reach them all without more support, so the network is now advocating for the increase in federal funds for nutrition programs to be made permanent. It is also asking private donors to grow their support. Many of these donors are taking action, including the dozens of corporations below that provided a lifeline to seniors during the pandemic and continue to fund Meals on Wheels America.

"I can't overstress the important role these companies played," said Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. "In countless cases, they helped saved the lives of seniors who were completely alone during the pandemic. We now hope they'll grow their giving so we can finally reach every senior who needs us."

AARP, AARP Foundation, Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, Bonne Maman Preserves, Caesars Foundation, Charles Schwab & Co., Consumer Cellular, Cooper Tire Foundation, D.A. Davidson, Food Lion Feeds, FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, Macy's, McAlister's Deli, Nestlé, North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM), PetSmart Charities, Prologis, QVC, Reverse Mortgage Funding LLC, SSP America, Subaru of America, Inc., SunFire, Synchrony, The Home Depot Foundation, US LBM Foundation, Wawa, William Hill Estate Winery

Meals on Wheels America is the leadership organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior hunger and isolation. This network serves virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America's seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. Through funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time.