By Beth Shapiro, Executive Director, Citymeals-on-Wheels
New York City nonprofit Citymeals-on-Wheels provides a continuous lifeline of nourishing meals and vital companionship to our homebound elderly neighbors. Working in partnership with community-based organizations and senior centers, Citymeals prepares and delivers over 2 million weekend, holiday and emergency meals to more than 18,000 frail aged New Yorkers each year.
Since its founding in 1981, Citymeals has provided more than 50 million nutritious meals to New York City’s most vulnerable residents. To support the charity’s efforts, last year over 15,000 individuals volunteered nearly 69,000 hours of their time to Citymeals.
EmblemHealth helps Citymeals achieve its goal of ending elder hunger by sponsoring two programs focused on malnutrition: Mobile Food Pantry and Fresh Produce.
Citymeals created the Mobile Food Pantry in 2011 in response to the needs of meal recipients living in the South Bronx, a neighborhood with some of the highest levels of food insecurity in the nation. In addition to their regular meal deliveries, Citymeals’ Mobile Food Pantry brings grocery bags of nonperishable staples – soups and stews, brown rice, whole-grain breakfast cereal and canned fruit and vegetables – right to the doors of older New Yorkers who are most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.
The following year, Citymeals expanded its Mobile Food Pantry services to Flushing and Cambria Heights, two neighborhoods that are also in need. In Fiscal Year 2015 alone, Citymeals delivered 46,916 Mobile Food Pantry meals. EmblemHealth ensures these weekly deliveries in three neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.
Citymeals also launched the Fresh Produce initiative in 2011, which provides supplemental nutrition to our meal recipients in East Harlem, Flushing and Corona who lack adequate access to fruit and vegetables. The Fresh Produce program runs during the summer through early fall, providing locally-grown strawberries, tomatoes, peaches and other seasonal delights. Last fiscal year Citymeals delivered over 8,700 pounds of produce. Our grant from EmblemHealth guarantees fresh fruit and vegetables for East Harlem residents each month.
Frances, a meal recipient in Manhattan, appreciates these efforts. “When I received my meal I was delighted to find a container of blueberries in it. I enjoyed eating them — they were delicious. They were the first I had in years.”