Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana Marks 50th Anniversary

Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana marks 50th anniversary with new grant funding and a renewed commitment to community

Volunteers delivered nearly 430,000 meals in the last year; 8.9 million meals since 1971

Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana is marking 2021 with the organization’s 50th anniversary as well as an influx of funding and ongoing fulfillment of its core mission: delivering hundreds of thousands of meals to individuals in Central Indiana who are critically or chronically ill, or unable to leave their homes.

“We’ve known for years, but particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, just how important nutritious meals are to the communities we serve,” said Jamie Johnson, interim COO. “And we’ve seen what a crucial role that Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana plays in providing those meals. In this, our 50th anniversary year, we’re proud to recognize the efforts of our volunteers, our donors and our supporters.”

Founded in 1971, Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana has expanded its services in recent years to include the delivery of medically tailored meals. In 2015, Meals on Wheels joined the Food Is Medicine Coalition to grow its ability to serve Hoosiers with chronic medical conditions. The organization partners with several Central Indiana healthcare institutions to prepare client meals.

In 2017, Meals on Wheels secured funding from the State of Indiana to support the delivery of medically tailored meals to low-income individuals living with HIV. Meals on Wheels created Ryan’s Meals for Life to honor the legacy of Hoosier Ryan White while facilitating meal delivery in areas with some of the greatest populations of people living with HIV, including Allen, Delaware, Lake, Marion and Scott Counties.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced unprecedented shutdowns in March 2020, Meals on Wheels’ services continued uninterrupted. During the period from March 2020 to March 2021, the organization’s 400 volunteers delivered 428,913 meals. Meals on Wheels also packed and assembled pantry boxes of non-perishable food for clients during the pandemic, providing 14,000 meals through the boxes.

Requests for financial assistance increased significantly during the pandemic, from $85,000 in 2019 to $220,000 in 2020, a 160 percent increase.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, like most organizations reliant on volunteers, we had to pivot quickly due to stay-at-home orders and rising fears. We found that staying true to our mission and focusing on what matters pulled our dedicated volunteers through the most difficult days of the pandemic,” Johnson continued. “As quickly as we were losing volunteers, we were also receiving calls and emails from people who wanted to help.”

Although some of the organization’s volunteers were themselves at risk during the pandemic and volunteer levels fluctuated, deliveries increased. Meals on Wheels estimates that at the height of the pandemic, the organization served an additional 30,000 to 40,000 meals.

“We are grateful that many companies in non-essential industries used their ‘down time’ for their employees to give back to Meals on Wheels, along with the many volunteers, our employees, and board members who helped us survive 2020 with minimal delivery interruptions to ensure no one faces the dual crisis of hunger and safety,” Johnson concluded.

The organization is marking two significant milestones as part of its 50th anniversary. Earlier this year, Meals on Wheels received a $100,000 grant from the United Way of Central Indiana, as part of a $10.5 million effort to support the basic needs of 63 accredited organizations in Central Indiana. Its services are privately funded, and 88 cents of every dollar goes to its clients.

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