Meals on Wheels San Francisco is a safety net organization.

Thousands of older adults rely on us for their meals because most, if not all, are homebound and are not able to get out to purchase food or to even cook a full meal on their own. There are many faces behind our organization including our drivers -- the unsung heroes who, day in and day out, are on the frontlines to deliver meals and ensure senior clients are safe.

I recently spoke with Cleu, a Driver Client Relationship Specialist Lead at Meals on Wheels SF who has been delivering meals to seniors for the past four years. I asked him how COVID-19, and its safety complications, have changed the way he and his team accomplish their daily goals -- ensuring the most vulnerable people in our community are fed:

"In response to COVID-19, we had to make changes very quickly to our procedures in preparing and delivering the meals to our clients. We are practicing social distancing and trying to maintain 6 feet distance between each other when we are preparing and loading the meals. In order to do this, we have been bringing only one vehicle into the loading area at a time. Before the pandemic, we would load 4-5 vans at the same time.  In addition, we are wearing face masks, gloves, and using hand sanitizer and washing our hands regularly.  We also have delivered flyers in various languages to our clients with information about these changes and about COVID-19.

The most challenging part was that these changes had to be implemented immediately with very short notice. The demand for our services increased quickly due to the pandemic, and we had to reach out to our volunteers for assistance and hire additional employees quickly.   

It is also difficult for our team knowing that we could also be exposed to COVID-19 while preparing and delivering meals to our clients.

Our clients communicated to us in the beginning of the virus outbreak that they were afraid of becoming ill from the virus.  In response to this, we are keeping a safe distance when delivering the meals. We have changed to a “no contact delivery” approach meaning that we want to keep our clients, many who already may have underlying medical conditions, safe from us in case we're possibly carrying the virus and don't know it.

We are also being sure to handle everything with clean gloves, while wearing masks, and making sure that employees who are sick or have a cold, stay home,” explains Cleu.

“I am very proud of our team and how everybody has stepped up to participate in dealing with this crisis. Being able to give back to our community in a way that I feel is very significant, gives me the greatest joy. Together we will get through this challenging time, and we will be stronger and more united than ever before."

Read about Meals on Wheels SF operations during COVID-19.