The Home-Delivered Groceries program launched as a pilot on July 14, 2010, started with just 50 clients. But it has grown exponentially over time. Now, Meals on Wheels serves nearly 500 clients each week, with many more people served by partner organizations across San Francisco.
Volunteer Program Manager Stephanie Galinson leads the program. Stephanie started at Meals on Wheels San Francisco as (you guessed it) a volunteer in the program! In January 2019, she joined the team full-time.
The first half of Stephanie’s week is focused on setting up, and the second half is focused on following up with volunteers and the food back.
But Wednesdays… that’s the program’s day to shine…even if it is raining!
A MEETING OF THE MINDS
Home-Delivered Groceries was born out of the Food Security Task Force, led by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. City agencies (like the Department of Aging) and nonprofits (like Meals on Wheels and various WIC programs) that deal with food security are represented.
The Task Force works to understand the community’s needs, who can meet them, and how they can coordinate their efforts.
The need to coordinate food security efforts bubbled up from the community. These initial conversations led to the development of the Home-Delivered Groceries Program, which the SF-Marin Food Bank stewards.
As the program grew, the Food Bank had a waitlist growing exponentially. “We said, ‘could we possibly help alleviate that?'” explained Kathy Stirling, Programs Director for the Volunteer Program Department. So, Meals on Wheels took bold action to serve an additional 300 to 400 clients.
Kathy credits her teammate for the program’s recent expansion. “Stephanie is a master at really looking at that waitlist and working on it,” added Kathy.
MANY HANDS COME TOGETHER
“I have a fixed route in the Tenderloin. I bring the groceries to my clients, and we look forward to seeing each other. It’s much more than just the food delivery – it’s talking with my clients, and respecting them, and empathizing with them.” Michael Bereskin, Meals on Wheels San Francisco volunteer since 2017
Home-Delivered Groceries helps people who typically would go to a food bank pantry but perhaps getting there is a challenge or they may not have the financial means to purchase groceries regularly. Generally, they are older than 60 and many live under the federal poverty level. MOWSF receives the food from the Food Bank. Every Wednesday, volunteers come together to gather the food, package it, and deliver the groceries to clients in need.
Meals on Wheels San Francisco receives a mixture of protein, grains, and a cross-section of fruits and vegetables every week. “We might get chicken or eggs as our protein,” said Stephanie. “Then we might get a pound of rice, oats, a loaf of bread, or a box of pasta.”
In addition, there is a cross-section of fruits and vegetables. These are often kitchen staples, like carrots, onions, apples, and pears. There are seasonal items as well, such as citrus in the winter.
Every Wednesday morning—6:00 in the morning, to be exact—volunteers gather outside, whether it’s sunny or raining or dark. They come in ready to go, sometimes with headlamps and sometimes with rain pants. Whatever it takes to get the job done!
One of the things that makes the Meals on Wheels version of the program unique is its wellness check component, a hallmark of the Home-Delivered Meals Program. As Stephanie explained, “like with the meals program, our volunteers see the same clients every week. They check in on them and report back to us to let us know how each client is doing — the same as, better, or worse than the week before.”
If there is an issue or emergency, the volunteer can call 911 or refer the case back to Meals on Wheels’ Social Work Department so they can get to the bottom of the issue.
Because the program operates with a crew of volunteers, the relationships built over time are irreplicable.
“As volunteers, we sometimes only see the hard aspects of clients’ lives,” explains Mary. “Many cannot get up and down the stairs or they have lots of medical issues. You see their problems and yet, each has such a wonderful life history to share. I wish more people did stuff like this (volunteering) because it changes your perspective about people in need. They’re just regular people like you and me or anyone else.” Mary Cerutti, Meals on Wheels San Francisco volunteer since 2018.