By Katrina Guevara, Contributor
Is San Pedro on lockdown? You wouldn’t be able to tell from the volunteers at San Pedro Meals on Wheels, who are still rocking the kitchen and rolling the results to hungry mouths five days a week, serving an average of 40 clients with 80 meals a day.
If anything, the arrival of COVID-19 has pushed the pace and the unpredictability of the well-known nonprofit by spurring a wave of new donors, said Sue Speth, president of the board of San Pedro Meals on Wheels. Local bakeries, restaurants and hotels have jostled the rhythm of the regular order and delivery from the restaurant supply company, U.S. Foods.
Speth recounted the weekend in March when Babouch, the Morrocan restaurant, donated a carton of eggplant, which switched Monday’s hot meal from meatballs to baked eggplant parmesan. And, how the arrival of a car full of produce and dairy products — an unexpected donation from the DoubleTree Marina Hotel — inspired Chef Mike Caccavalla to create a delicious vegetable frittata, accompanied by wilted greens, fresh green beans and a country roll.
Now, San Pedro Meals on Wheels, which has prepared and delivered more than one million meals since its founding in 1972, appears to be on the verge of a significant expansion funded by several private grants and donations. Additionally, San Pedro Meals on Wheels is in discussions with Los Angeles County to respond to COVID-19 by quadrupling its current production-and-delivery numbers.
The need is there, said Speth, and while nourishment is a very basic need, the volunteers at San Pedro Meals on Wheels — six on-site and four in the kitchen — have seen how often it is overlooked.
San Pedro Meals on Wheels volunteers said that for the most part their clients are unable to take care of their nutrition needs alone. The organization assists them with that basic necessity. In addition, it provides peace of mind to family members who know their loved one is being looked in on.
“In the last two weeks, we’ve received several calls per day to receive free meals,” Speth said. “Our service is $7.50 a day. Therefore, regardless of whether the county program kicks in, we are beginning a donation campaign so people can help feed someone in need. For example, $150 will feed someone for one month and $450 will feed someone for three months.”
The majority of the clients are seniors ages 70 to 100 years old, but San Pedro Meals on Wheels serves anyone from those who are recovering at home from surgery to those who are temporarily infirmed.
One of their longest clients has been Della, who is 104 years-old and has been receiving meals for decades.
Meals on Wheels volunteer, Carol Covey, is a retiree who joined the nonprofit organization six months ago. Covey said she always wanted to give back to her community by helping older people.
When asked if her work has taken on more urgency since Safe at Home restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, she said “not more than usual.”
Fellow volunteer and retiree, Mike Bodlovich, agreed.
“It makes me feel really good to provide something that people really need and appreciate,” Bodlovich said. Bodlovich has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels for the past two years.
Bodlovich noted that the work has taken on more significance due to COVID-19.
“I definitely think this is a service that people really need and that people really appreciate right now under these conditions,” Bodlovich said.
Covey noted that Meals on Wheels has always rendered an important service.
Covey expressed that she’s surprised that they hadn’t got more new clients. She was expecting more of a surge than the several more clients Speth talked about.
Covey suspected that this was due to more people cooking for themselves at home, fearful of coming into contact with the infections from persons outside the home.
“It’s also a scary time for us,” said Covey as she motioned to Bodlovich, highlighting the risk they face as members of a vulnerable population to the coronavirus. “Sometimes I wonder if I should stop doing this because I’m over 65 and so is he.”
Speth is conscious of the dilemma the coronavirus poses to the Meals on Wheels operations.
“This could become an issue in the near future, but right now it is not,” Speth said.
What is absolutely clear is that the needs remain, therefore the work continues.
How to Get Meals on Wheels
RLn staff has compiled a listing of the Harbor area Meals on Wheels locations to help you find a location close to you and those you may know who are in need of food security.
San Pedro Meals On Wheels
731 S Averill Ave, San Pedro
Harbor Interfaith Services
670 W. 9th St., San Pedro
Volunteers of America Los Angeles
3600 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1500, Los Angeles
213-389-1500 | TDD: 213-388-8280
Torrance-Lomita Meals On Wheels
3525 Maricopa St, Torrance
Wilmington Jaycees Foundation
1371 Eubank Ave, Wilmington
Houghton Park – HSA
6301 Myrtle Ave, Long Beach
Long Beach Senior Center – HSA
1150 E. 4th St, Long Beach
El Dorado Park – HSA
2800 N. Studebaker Road, Long Beach
Meals on Wheels of Long Beach, Inc.
PO Box 15688, Long Beach, CA 90815