Ribbon Cutting at the Meals on Wheels San Antonio Campus of Grace on November 18, 2022, photographed by Josh Huskin. (Meals on Wheels San Antonio)
More than 130 people gathered in mid-November to celebrate the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Meals on Wheels San Antonio’s brand-new building just north of I-410. After celebrating 45 years of service earlier this year, the new and improved building is the cherry on top to a successful year.
Chief Strategy and Development Officer Forrest Mayne said the new building is not only a new home for employees and volunteers, but a game-changer for the organization.
“We are on a six-and-a-half acre campus and the building is 44,000 square feet,” Mayne said. “To put that into context, our current building is just a little over 12,000 square feet, so our entire building could fit in our [new] kitchen, twice. To say this is an upgrade is an understatement.”
The increase in space affords the organization opportunities it could not previously access. For example, Meals on Wheels now has the ability to bulk-buy food because the new kitchen makes a huge difference in the amount of food that can be stored.
In addition, the new space means Meals on Wheels will not have to make decisions to support a group of interns or host a program based on restrictions such as limited space and technological infrastructure.
The heart of Meals on Wheels’ mission lies in serving the senior community through meal delivery and community outreach programs. This expansion means Meals on Wheels can expand its breadth of services and increase the amount of people being served.
The old kitchen was designed to produce anywhere from 4,500-5,000 meals a day, but after the onset of COVID-19, Meals on Wheels took on new clients and expanded its territory to additional counties. Right now, the old location’s kitchen produces 10,000 meals a day, half of which are hot and the other half, frozen.
The new kitchen is capable of producing 10,000 meals a shift, three shifts a day.
“At first, we thought, ‘In what world would you be making that much food?’ But knowing what we know now in our ability to make meals, we could for sure do 30,000 meals a day,” Mayne said. “And when you take into account frozen meals, flash-freezing and shipping, the sky's the limit.”
Mayne said another exciting thing about the building is its location.
“What we learned after Winter Storm Uri is that there are not a lot of places that can provide food,” she said. “We helped out during that time, and since we’re on the other side of town from the food bank, this means we have two major kitchens on two different sides of town to combat a weather disaster.”
In addition to having added capacity for its own production, the new Meals on Wheels building is on a separate grid and can be powered by a generator. This gives the organization the opportunity to be a part of helping other programs, regardless of weather conditions.
Mayne said because of the name-recognition Meals on Wheels has, she hopes to be the first place seniors call if they need help.
“We’re a trusted place and our client services team can help them with our services or send them to a place that can help them through our relationships,” Mayne said. “Everything we do is meant to keep seniors safe in their homes.”
Over the past couple years with the pandemic, the general public experienced the level of isolation in which some seniors are living. Mayne said the isolation factor makes outreach more difficult because Meals on Wheels needs to think about how to bring things to their clients.
During the pandemic, Meals on Wheels worked with the city to help clients get vaccinated in their home because they could not leave the home.
In addition to overcoming isolation, the organization’s Alzheimer's program has opportunities for growth. Mayne said unfortunately, Alzheimer's and dementia is not something that is waning, it is something that is growing tremendously. Meals on Wheels operates centers that are similar to a senior center for people with Alzheimer's and dementia.
“We can support people beyond our meal-delivery clients, and there is room to add services wherever there is a gap in the market,” Mayne said. “For example, right now, clients struggle with getting their prescriptions and how to get those delivered to them.”
In addition to potentially adding services, Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteers.
“Around the holidays, college kids are back home, people are off work, and our volunteers who are here regularly are on vacation,” she said. “It’s a great time to take your kids and take your family to volunteer. It’s such a sweet experience and you are creating a moment in someone’s day when they don’t see anyone else.”
Mayne said she is excited for the start of 2023 when all the staff is in the building, there is power and internet and the kitchen is ready.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had, and I’ve never worked harder or had more fun,” Mayne said. “[Meals on Wheels] is ripe with opportunity and the community is growing.”
To volunteer and make a difference in the San Antonio community, visit the Meals on Wheels website here. Find Meals on Wheels San Antonio on social media including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok with the handle @mowsatx.
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