“Everyone Needs To Eat” – Meals on Wheels
Posted by Shana | 31 January 2013
Portland Center Stage partnered with students from Portland State University’s Arts Advocacy class to create a series of blogs about non-profits working to end hunger. The students visited the organizations, interviewed staff, and wrote blogs about their experience from a personal perspective. These blogs will be featured right here, during the run of I Love to Eat
. Our third installment features Meals on Wheels
, from the perspective of guest blogger Hannah Hartman.
When I was a little girl, I used to go with my aunt on her Meals on Wheels delivery route. Now, at the age of 10, I didn’t fully understand what I was doing, just that it was vaguely important and it was something that my aunt did which meant it had to have been all right. I don’t remember the majority of the experience, but something that will always stick with me were the smiles on the faces of people who opened their doors. It wasn’t necessarily the delivery of a hot meal, but the presence of a living, breathing person at their door, willing to converse for a few moments between stops. We weren’t just delivering food. We were delivering interaction. And I’d be hard-pressed to decide which was most important.
Recently, I had a chance to revisit those memories when I stopped by the SE Belmont Loaves and Fishes Center and chatted with a few of the staff and clients. The coolers are still the same, but seeing them through the eyes of a grown-up is almost like seeing them for the first time. As a child, they were simply a part of the experience and as a adult, it made me realize how truly important the Meals on Wheels program is.
The kitchen on Belmont is one of 35 locations
in the greater Portland area and serves close to two hundred people daily, both in delivered meals and walk-in clients. The meals are prepared at the central kitchen and then sent to the outlying programs where they are heated and then delivered to clients. The number of the stops on the delivery routes vary, ranging anywhere from five on up. The drivers swing by the kitchen at a specified time to pick up their route lists and coolers and then head off into the weather, much like the Postal Service: snow, rain or shine.
The drivers of the Meals on Wheels program are all on a volunteer basis and, to quote the Belmont manager, Bruce Nissen, “We could not exist without volunteers.” Volunteers staff most of the Meals on Wheels kitchens with very few actual paid positions existing at these locations.
In addition to the delivery meal system, the Belmont branch offers walk-in meals to local clients. People gather to spend time together in the dining room, an interaction with community members that might not happen otherwise. There is a small boutique set up in the corner of the cafeteria-sized room where clients can purchase various pieces of clothing.
Carmen Brown and Micah Deulen have grown to be close friends since they first met at cafeteria. They each spend a large amount of time in the cafeteria, visiting with each other and other friends. They both enjoy the camaraderie and food offered by the facility and have a friendship that extends outside the walls of the Meals on Wheels Belmont location.
Seeing the Meals on Wheels operation from behind the scenes in no way diminished that feeling that has carried over from my childhood. The coolers are still the same, the clients are still happy to see you, and that feeling of doing something for someone else still makes me smile just thinking about it.