London Meals on Wheels sees increased demand in midst of coronavirus pandemic

Volunteers prepare the deliveries for Meals on Wheels Tuesday, March 17.
Volunteers prepare the deliveries for Meals on Wheels Tuesday, March 17. Sydney Morton / Global News

As the novel coronavirus spreads, services like Meals on Wheels are becoming more in demand and having to adapt to keep the vulnerable populations they serve safe.

London Meals on Wheels executive director Chad Callander tells Global News two weeks ago they started seeing a rise in the number of people accessing the service.

He said the demand has become so high that the group stopped taking new orders for hot meals but is still offering its frozen meal service.

“(New clients) may have felt comfortable going out to grocery stores and getting those items themselves and now that they are in that vulnerable population they maybe feel like Meals on Wheels is a better route for them.”

Meals on Wheels is a program that operates in 181 different communities across Ontario to deliver pre-made meals at an affordable price to groups like elderly people, people with physical disabilities, and those with cognitive impairments.

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Along with demand, Callander has also noticed an increase in how many people want to volunteer.

“Thankfully, our community has stepped up in a big way to help us. If you have put in an inquiry, we ask people to be patient because we are receiving more requests than we can handle.”

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Meal on Wheels London has implemented steps to ensure the safety of clients and volunteers.

“When they think of Meals on Wheels, they think of delivery to the door, and we are still doing that, but we have changed our process a bit,” Callander said. “Now the person knocks on the door and leaves the meal on the porch steps six feet away, makes sure the person takes it and then moves on.”

Local volunteers deliver groceries to Blue Mountains, Ont. residents amid coronavirus pandemic
Local volunteers deliver groceries to Blue Mountains, Ont. residents amid coronavirus pandemic

The group is also doing daily checkups on volunteers to ensure they are in good health before heading out and making sure meals are ready before drivers arrive to promote physical distancing.

“A lot of our clients are the most vulnerable folks, so we have to take the extra care,” volunteer driver Paul Connor said.

“A lot of the clients we have are basically in permanent isolation because of their mobility issues, and so a lot of the time, the Meals on Wheels people are the only people they see.”

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He has noticed since the pandemic, some of the program’s clients have become more closed off and less talkative during deliveries.

Connor adds drivers are all taking a lot of precautions, like having hand sanitizer with him in his car.

“I do whatever I can to protect the folks we are delivering to.”

READ MORE: New London, Ont. coronavirus tipline sees over 600 emails in first weekend

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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