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New calls for home-delivered meals for seniors tapering off in Clark County

New applications for Meals on Wheels People’s home-delivered meals for seniors are tapering off, similar to the trend that the Department of Social and Health Services is seeing with food stamps.

“It was complete insanity for about a month,” said Julie Piper-Finley, spokeswoman for Meals on Wheel People, which serves the Portland metro area.

In Clark County, the nonprofit is providing 25 percent more meals this year. There is a surge in new clients prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, from 4,800 clients to 6,000. When dining centers closed in mid-March, Meals on Wheels People told its clients they could switch to home-delivered meals. Some diners signed up for the service, and many others — who had never used Meals on Wheels before — signed up as well.

At one point, Piper-Finley said, the nonprofit was getting 100 calls daily. These clients may not be the typical candidate for Meals on Wheels; they’re healthier but afraid to leave home due to the novel coronavirus.

“That’s what we hear from them when we talk with them,” Piper-Finley said.

The nonprofit has also seen a surge in monetary and in-kind donations. Piper-Finley thinks that it could be in part because suddenly everyone is experiencing the social isolation many seniors experienced daily before COVID-19 hit.

The way she sees it, older people may be the last group to venture back out because they are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Clark County is home to Meals on Wheels People’s only restaurant, The Diner Vancouver. It’s open to clients and the general public. It’s currently offering takeout and family-sized meals Wednesdays through Sundays.

The Diner Vancouver will follow state guidelines for restaurant reopenings, which will cut the dining room capacity and close the counter seating area.

It could be fall before dining centers, typically located inside community centers, reopen.

While production and delivery have shifted, Meals on Wheels People’s central kitchen in Portland is keeping up with the increased demand. Staff have always worn gloves and hairnets. Now, they’re wearing masks, too, and face shields may be next.

“It’s just interesting times here,” Piper-Finley said.


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