For San Antonio locals, Meals on Wheels is more than just a meal. The nonprofit is a symbol of how much good communities can do by volunteering their time, energy and resources. Founded in 1977 in conjunction with Grace Place Alzheimer’s Activity Center, Meals on Wheels San Antonio will celebrate 45 years of serving the senior community this year.

At its inception, the organization provided daycare for older citizens whose loved ones still needed to work. Over time, the nonprofit has evolved to meet the needs of seniors in different ways, including home-delivered meals.

“We started serving food and eventually realized there were going to be people who can’t come here who need food. So that’s how it organically grew into what it is today,” said Ariana Barbour, Director of Marketing and Communications.

Currently, Meals on Wheels provides meals to 4,500 clients in the San Antonio area. Although not all clients are getting deliveries five days a week right now, Meals on Wheels is working to get back to that level of Monday through Friday operation.

“One of the things we are trying to do is to get back to where we were pre-pandemic,” Barbour said. “There are so many people who are so happy to be seeing someone every day, and the reduction of isolation can be just as positively impactful as good nutrition.”

At this time all home-delivered meals are frozen because the current Meals on Wheels kitchen does not have the storage space for food for preparation or the final plates for delivery. But by November, the nonprofit will be moving to a new location, allowing for more bandwidth and growth.

Right now, Meals on Wheels is located off Northwest Loop 410, close to the medical center. The new location will be closer to the airport, just up the road, Barbour said. Meals on Wheels is planning to have a ribbon cutting for the new location in November and celebrate the move with a neighborhood block party.

However, before the move, the organization is looking for volunteers who can help staff with meal deliveries. Most nonprofits saw a decrease in volunteer availability after the onset of the pandemic, and Meals on Wheels is struggling to recruit enough volunteer support.

Barbour said one of the special things about volunteering with Meals on Wheels is each volunteer has a massive impact. In fact, approximately half of all meals delivered to clients are delivered by 100 volunteers, but the organization needs more than that on a daily basis, Barbour said.

For those who are curious to volunteer, there are multiple ways to get involved. For senior meal deliveries, there are usually about 10 clients per route. The routes are grouped based on client locations, and it is easy to make the 10 deliveries in the span of a lunch hour, Barbour said. For volunteers who are not available during the week, Meals on Wheels also delivers pet food to clients’ furry friends once a month on the weekends.

“A number of years ago, volunteers and staff reported that they would see [Meals on Wheels] food trays outside the door, because people were feeding their pets and splitting food with them,” Barbour said. “That means they aren’t getting the nutrition they need to be healthy and making hard decisions about things like medication or pet food.”

In addition to meal delivery, Meals on Wheels also serves the community through a number of initiatives designed to make sure everyone the organization serves is comfortable and safe in their homes.

This summer, Meals on Wheels worked on a Beat the Heat campaign delivering cooling kits to people throughout the San Antonio area. The kits included items such as water, cooling towels and information from the city on how to stay safe during excessive heat.

In years past, the Friendly Visitor program helped provide seniors with extra companionship. Volunteers would be paired up with a senior based on their interests and spend an hour each week playing games, watching television or just visiting.

“There was the cutest pairing of this older gentleman who lived here for a number of years and a younger guy who was new to San Antonio,” Barbour said. “He would go pick out a bottle of wine and they would drink wine, talk and look at the older gentleman’s war memorabilia.”

To get involved with programs like these and make a difference in the San Antonio community, visit the Meals on Wheels website here. Meals on Wheels San Antonio is also on a number of social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok with the handle mowsatx. For businesses that would like to volunteer, reach out to [email protected] to coordinate a team-building activity.

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