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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 9, 2020 1 year ago

Meals on Wheels of Sarasota continues to feed hungry amid pandemic

The nonprofit feeds nearly 600 people per day.
by: Whitney Elfstrom Staff Writer

Although a lot of the world has closed up shop amid the coronavirus outbreak, Meals on Wheels of Sarasota is still ensuring Sarasotans in need are fed — with food and more.

Marjorie Broughton, Meals on Wheels of Sarasota executive director

“The illness doesn’t matter; the age doesn’t matter,” said Marjorie Broughton, Meals on Wheels of Sarasota’s executive director. “If they are unable to provide or prepare a meal for themselves in their home, then we’re going to feed them. To this day, my youngest client is now 3, and my oldest client is 104.”

The nonprofit delivers 600 meals a day Monday through Saturday, with two meals delivered Saturday.

Although food delivery is foremost, the agency also focuses on providing companionship, something that takes a little more care these days.

Volunteer Lucinda Brown carries her route meals to her car.

For many clients, their Meals on Wheels volunteer is the only person they see daily.

Volunteers typically spend some time with clients, chatting or checking on their safety. What once was a cordial visit inside now often consists of front-door conversation 6 feet away.

“Some [clients] will put their head around the corner just to say hello,” Broughton said. “Sometimes they just leave a note on the door saying, ‘Thank you so much, and I’m out of toilet paper.’ Right now that is a problem, so we have volunteers who will call people [to check on them].”

Adhering to social distancing hasn’t stopped volunteers from making a difference, though.

Mary Flagg, meal service coordinator, delivered meals to a family who began receiving meals right as the coronavirus pandemic began. The family of four has a 2-year-old who was diagnosed with macular degeneration and a father who is out of work due to injuries from a car accident and recent surgery.

After dropping the meals off for the family, Flagg went to the grocery store with $50 of her own money to pick up extra food for the family, including a few gallons of milk and canned ravioli.

Lidia Patrina scoops the shrimp salad into the meal containers.

“The next day she went back to check on them, and all the milk was gone,” Broughton said. “The family said, ‘Our neighbors have both lost their jobs, and they have four children and now need a lot of food.’ So they took Mary over to meet the neighbors [and began delivering to them too].”

Broughton said the nonprofit is seeing the need for meal deliveries increase as people ages 20-50 years old lose their jobs.

“We’ve always tried to supplement [with extra food] but never to this extent,” Broughton said. “As volunteers come back in or call us or text us, they say, ‘This is what [my client] asked for,’ and then a bag is put together and marked. It can have anything from Clorox wipes to a can of Lysol.”

To provide extra food and personal needs for families, Meals on Wheels of Sarasota is hosting an ongoing emergency food drive at its 421 N Lime Ave. location. 

Food donation ideas include peanut butter and jelly, crackers, raisin packs, shelf stable meat and cheese and cracker packages. Meals on Wheels of Sarasota does not accept canned goods.

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I’m the Sarasota community reporter, which means I cover the people, places and things of Sarasota. I graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a degree in journalism and digital communication and a minor in English. 

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