Meals on Wheels Central Texas experiencing volunteer shortage, on track to resume deliveries in early 2022

Volunteers load food into vehicles for deliveries.
Volunteers load food into vehicles for deliveries. The nonprofit switched to biweekly frozen meal deliveries when the pandemic began. (Trent Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper

Volunteers load food into vehicles for deliveries. The nonprofit switched to biweekly frozen meal deliveries when the pandemic began. (Trent Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper

Meals on Wheels Central Texas is set to resume daily hot meal deliveries through all 12 of its Austin locations beginning Jan. 24.

The meal delivery organization provides food to homebound seniors and individuals with disabilities. When operating normally, MOWCT serves the Greater Austin area, including Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.

However, since the start of the pandemic, the organization began delivering frozen and shelf-stable meals from only its location at 3227 E. Fifth St., Austin, every other Friday. After over a year of recovering from a significant volunteer shortage and practicing proper safety measures, the organization is not at its desired volunteer capacity, said Theresa Crawford, vice president for volunteer services and distribution.

“We have over 1,250 routes a week when [we were doing] daily operations so we need a minimum of 1,250 [volunteers],” Crawford said. “Ideally for a month's delivery we need about 2,500 individuals. We have about 125 routes that still need to be filled for us to be at capacity. So far we have filled 330 routes that we have lost.”

MOWCT initially planned to resume normal operations much sooner before the city returned to a Stage 5 risk for COVID-19 on Aug. 5. Since it delivers to a vulnerable population, Crawford said organization leaders wanted to be cautious and continued with the biweekly deliveries.

MOWCT has seen growth in its clientele in rural parts of the greater Austin area. To keep up with the increased demand, Crawford said they have had to increase production.

“One of the reasons why we have had to delay daily deliveries is because of that increase in the rural areas where our volunteers don’t typically deliver to,” Crawford said. “We’ve had to increase our paid driver staffing and order 10 new vehicles to handle the increased capacity that was added during the pandemic.”

Despite the volunteer shortages, MOWCT volunteer Renee Doyon said her six months of experience has felt manageable all thanks to the hardworking volunteers and communicative nature of the staff.

“I’m hoping that more people will come back to volunteer again, I don’t know if that’s a possibility,” Doyon said. “While Meals on Wheels opens up more volunteer positions again then hopefully more people can get involved. I know myself personally I've also signed up to do monthly shopping for some individuals.”

Individuals interested in signing up to volunteer can do so here.
By Trent Thompson

Reporter, Austin Metro

Trent joined Community Impact Newspaper as an intern in May 2021 after graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Texas, Austin in December 2020. In July 2021, he was promoted to Austin Metro reporter. He covers several news beats from education and government to dining, transportation, nonprofits, and healthcare. However, his primary beat is business and development. Before working at CI, Trent wrote for The Daily Texan, UT's daily student newspaper, and worked on many projects of his own for his undergraduate program. In his free time Trent writes poetry, spends time with loved ones, and watches Star Wars for the hundredth time, including other new movies.


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