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Meals On Wheels Bringing Food To More People In Need Amid COVID-19

Dana Vollmer
Peoria Public Radio

As COVID-19 makes accessing groceries a challenge, more seniors and people with disabilities could get food delivered to their home.

Becky Rossman, CEO of Neighborhood House, oversees the Meals on Wheels program for Peoria and Tazewell counties.

Rossman said they've made changes to their kitchen and procedures to add 120 people to the rolls, bringing their total capacity up to 850.

She said they regularly serve a population of about 720. But amid concerns about the spread of novel coronavirus, they're currently at 790.

"We still have a little bit of room, but we're getting a lot of referrals that aren't really appropriate," she said. "We're really focused on that 60 and older population, or those who are homebound because of a disability or immunodeficiency."

Growing the program doesn't come without a cost. Rossman said they'll be operating at a deficit.

"It's going to cost an additional $3,000 a week, which some of it we'll be able to get reimbursed," she said. "But we're still going to have to eat the cost of about $750 per week."

Rossman said Neighborhood House is in need of both food and cash donations to meet the need. They'll also need volunteers to help staff the kitchen and meal delivery routes.

"We have about a third of my original staff not reporting," she said. "Many of them are self quarantining, which we support. Many of our Meals on Wheels drivers are retired themselves and over the age of 75."

Rossman said they were fortunate to recently be able to hire eight new staff members. She said they're also getting help from the YMCA, which is offering up employees and vehicles.

She said next week they're sending out shelf stable meals to seniors, in case things go awry and they can't deliver for a few days.

People interested in getting food delivered through Meals and Wheels can call Neighborhood House at (309)674-1131 or email Kristie Wright at kwright@nhpeoria.org.

Rossman said those who aren't elderly or disabled, but are still in need of food assistance, can contact the United Way or call the 211 service.

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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.