Fairbanks Meals on Wheels adjusts, expands operations in response to coronavirus pandemic

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The Meals on Wheels program in Fairbanks is adjusting its operations and adding services to better respond to the needs of its client population during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fairbanks Meals on Wheels hopes to roll out a program to send volunteers grocery shopping for clients by next week. (Photo courtesy of Fairbanks Senior Center)

According to Executive Director Darlene Supplee, on Wednesday, April 1, the program will distribute to clients its first “emergency food box” containing a two-week supply of food. This will give the kitchen staff a break and test out the process in case operations, which are based out of the Fairbanks Senior Center, need to be suspended for any period of time.

To make up for the lack of daily in-person drop-offs to clients this will cause, Meals on Wheels plans to increase their once-weekly “Wellness Checks” to three or four times a week over the phone. “One of the things people don’t realize about Meals on Wheels is that we, more often than not, find an individual who has fallen at least once a week, and so we are that safety net for the community with regards to homebound seniors,” Duplee said.

According to Duplee, in the next week Meals on Wheels will begin a program in which volunteers will go grocery shopping for clients. The program is still in development but Supplee hopes to roll out the program this Friday or next Monday.

Meals on Wheels utilizes volunteers to perform many functions. The program recently sent out a call for volunteers and is currently running background checks. Volunteer responsibilities include food delivery and wellness checks.

Meals on Wheels distributes 190 meals a day in addition to frozen meals for the weekend. Supplee anticipates a greater need for the program’s services over the next month. “What’s happening now is we’re starting to see a large shift in the need for Meals on Wheels, and I predict that we will be at 210 Meals on Wheels deliveries every day if not more by the end of April,” she said.

Meals on Wheels is asking for financial donations from the community. Supplee says the program is also running low on Lysol spray in order to disinfect food boxes before they are delivered.

Supplee says the ability to continue to help people on multiple levels “takes an amazing community and we are blessed to be in one.”

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