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Serving Meals and Making Connections During COVID-19

The pandemic is driving peak demand at Meals on Wheels San Francisco, where JPMorgan Chase Community Development Banking helped finance the development of a new kitchen and food production space to double output.

COVID-19 is driving peak demand at Meals on Wheels San Francisco—JPMorgan Chase Community Development Banking helped them finance the development of a new kitchen and food production space to double their output.

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For thousands of people in the Bay Area, being homebound is nothing new. For years, a vulnerable aging population has been unable to safely and confidently leave their homes due to health issues.

Over the past 50 years, Meals on Wheels San Francisco has worked tirelessly to serve older adults who have limited financial resources to maintain good nutritional health. Many live alone, having outlived family members and friends. Nutrition, along with wellness and safety checks, are key to helping seniors live independently and with dignity in their homes for as long as safely possible.

More than ten years ago, the organization began looking for a new space that would allow them to meet growing demand.

“In 2007, we were making about 523,000 meals … and now we’re making almost 2.2 million meals a year,” said Ashley McCumber, CEO and executive director of Meals on Wheels San Francisco.

To meet this expanding need, McCumber connected with Nicole Boone, VP, Community Development Banking at JPMorgan Chase.

Boone and McCumber worked together to secure space for a new, 36,000-square-foot commercial kitchen and food production facility.

“Chase served as the New Markets Tax Credits investor,” Boone said. “We provided about $8 million of tax credit subsidy and that is huge for projects of this size.”

The new space allows the organization to more than double its production output to more than 30,000 meals daily and provides services to a growing population of older San Franciscans with home-delivered meals and expanded outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Serving through a Pandemic

Between March and June 2020, Meals on Wheels San Francisco saw a 246% increase (more than 1,300 individuals) in people applying for deliveries in the Bay Area. In its existing kitchen, the organization went from daily production of 8,000 meals to 10,000 meals, ensuring services to 3,600 older adults and adults with disabilities each day.

This year’s increase in deliveries is tied to hundreds of families who needed to quarantine as a result of one or more members contracting COVID-19.

On top of serving nutritious meals and helping people maintain healthy eating habits, McCumber’s team helps address social isolation for seniors who may not see or speak to another person daily were it not for their meal delivery.

Part of our mission is to reduce isolation and build ongoing trust. COVID-19 flipped this. In some cases, we’re able to check in on people from a safe distance, but even social visits are now done by phone.

Ashley McCumber, CEO and executive director of Meals on Wheels San Francisco

To continue the effort to reduce isolation, in June, McCumber’s team started a voluntary phone call program as well as a volunteer grocery shopper program that to date is serving the needs of nearly 60 homebound seniors in need.

Like organizations around the world, Meals on Wheels San Francisco has been forced to pivot.

“From the beginning we knew that if we take care of our people then they can take care of our clients,” McCumber said.

They’ve leaned into the challenge from the beginning. Keeping their employees healthy and safe has been a priority since the virus took hold. For employees who have been unable to work from home, Meals on Wheels has made sure they have protective equipment like masks and hand sanitizer as well as enough space to work in a socially distant manner. By supporting their employees and volunteers, Meals on Wheels has been able to keep everyone safe while not missing a single meal delivery.

For a team that has been working their current kitchen to its functional limit, moving to a bigger space with larger equipment will be a welcome change.

Learn more about Meals on Wheels San Francisco at: MOWSF.org

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