Helping those in need during the pandemic
August 22, 2022Jim Oswald

Meals on Wheels San Francisco staff are busy delivering meals and hope for individuals and families impacted by the pandemic.

Bernard loads up supplemental food items into my van.

In partnership with the City and County of San Francisco COVID-19 Command Center, Meals on Wheels San Francisco is managing the Isolation and Quarantine Food Helpline (IQ for short.) This program, which started in July, reduces the spread of COVID-19 by providing an IQ Helpline for San Francisco Residents, regardless of age, who are food insecure and require food assistance to help them remain in isolation or quarantine. The program includes the provision of nutritious meals or groceries and case management services. Thru this program, MOWSF has provided 34,500 meals to date and delivered, in partnership with the SF-Marin Food Bank, more than 10,500 bags of groceries.

As coronavirus cases surge in what we hope is the last phase of this pandemic, more and more families are heavily impacted by this disease and as a result, are in need of nourishing food.

The need for services from residents impacted by COVID-19 peaked in the summer, dipped in early October, and then has been on the rise since early November. To date, the daily average of referrals from November compared to the daily average referrals as of Dec. 13 is up by 83%.

Recently, I filled in to help deliver bags of groceries as well as our own meals on Wheels supplemental packages of food items to those in need who are quarantining or isolating. It’s hard to imagine (unless you’re going through it yourself) the fear of the unknown and whether you’ll be o.k. and more so, how you will be able to provide for your family if you cannot go out and do the basic things such as shop for groceries or picking up essential items. This helplessness is what our homebound senior clients live and breathe daily, even prior to COVID-19, and the reason why we exist to serve – ensuring people are fed and are safe – giving them peace of mind that they matter and that they’re not forgotten.

I prepare to deliver 400 lb of food to people impacted by the pandemic.

SF-Marin Food Bank staff help load bags of groceries into a Meals on Wheels van December 15, 2020

Donned in my PPE and with COVID-19 safety practices top of mind – I began my task. First stop – a trip to the SF-Marin Food Bank to pick up 27 bags of groceries – the number needed on my assigned route. I have to say that driving through to pick up the food was much easier than I expected. What I didn’t expect was how heavy those bags of food were – I’m estimating each bag weighed about 15 pounds! After loading the first few in the van, I knew that I was in for a workout today!

I drove through the city delivering my bundles of groceries full of fresh broccoli, canned goods, potatoes, proteins, and more. At each stop on my assigned route sheet, I called the recipient to let him or her know that food was on the way. You could tell from their voices on the line that they couldn’t wait to receive the groceries. While we’d like to interact with everyone we deliver food to, for obvious reasons we have to remain distant from everyone for safety all around.

Some recipients would poke their masked faces out of windows to wave at me and say thanks. Others waited until I got back in my van to pick up their bundles of food which would last them a few days until the next delivery. Some families had whole households living under one roof with them – all sheltering-in-place. At those stops, a delivery might include hauling for or five of those bags of groceries to their front steps along with the supplemental supplies. By stop two, I was very grateful for my wheelie cart to haul the load up and down hilly sidewalks.

I was done with my deliveries in about four hours. It’s hard work to deliver food in this capacity and I tip my hat to all of our drivers who do this demanding work daily making sure the most vulnerable are fed.

For people in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, you may call 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you are:

Diagnosed as infected with COVID-19
Waiting for test results
Are quarantining because you are in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19

Read about our Covid-19 response

Donate to our 2020 Holiday Meals Campaign


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