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Meals on Wheels celebrates annual ‘March for Meals’

SALISBURY — Meals on Wheels Rowan, which helps some of the county’s most vulnerable people, has kept delivering during the pandemic.

The nonprofit cut back on the number of days it delivers, instead delivering more than one meal at a time to get the same number out the door. It added grocery delivery to its programs as the number of people on the meal program increased.

The nonprofit is now serving 275 seniors with delivered meals and more than 200 through the grocery program.

Each March, the nonprofit participates in March for Meals. The monthlong celebration brings out local leaders to participate in meal delivery. Meals on Wheels Marketing Manager Alexandra Fisher said Spencer Mayor Jonathan Williams and County Commissioners Chair Greg Edds already are among the local officials who have tagged along for deliveries this month.

Fisher said the pandemic has come with increased demand on its meal delivery program. Before the pandemic, it served about 240 people every day. More food going out to more people means more cost, and Fisher said the organization is applying for grants with the hope to keep its grocery program going. Rowan County United Way has supported the nonprofit with COVID-19 relief funding.

Executive Director Cindy Fink also said the organization looks different now compared to a year ago. It has had to work through losing a number of volunteers, older people themselves, limiting exposure with safety protocols and reduced delivery days and other accommodations.

The organization traditionally serves homebound seniors who are unable to prepare their own meals, but the grocery program has expanded the mission to reach people who may not feel safe or be able to get to stores but can prepare their meals. Fink said the nonprofit’s board decided it needed to continue the grocery program in January.

She described other affiliates around the country having to build their own capacity with the flip of a switch, including one in New York that had to triple its home deliveries after it had to stop hosting congregant meals.

The goal is not just to get calories to the people who need it. Meals on Wheels Rowan also tries to work with people on nutrition needs, even if they are specialized like those resulting from renal issues.

Workers talk to clients about how they are eating and encourage people in the grocery program to include things they need in their diet. It can be as simple as adding some lettuce to a sandwich.

Fink said this has been an exceptional year and it has given some extra meaning to this March.

“We do feel like it’s a little special this year,” Fink said.

For more information on how you can volunteer, contribute or speak out for the seniors in Rowan County this March, visit mowrowan.org.

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