WESTFIELD, NJ — Mobile Meals of Westfield, which provides meals for about 80 homebound residents of Westfield and surrounding towns, hasn’t had to stop delivering nutritious meals during the coronavirus pandemic, but it has had to make some changes.

“Our population is vulnerable,” said Ruth Maloney, board president of the organization. “We were determined to stay open. We serve many food insecure individuals, and we know that some of our clients have no other means of receiving food if we don’t deliver.”

The kitchen in the First Baptist Church of Westfield where hot, fresh meals are prepped and cooked five days a week is spacious enough for staff, who are taking universal safety precautions, to maintain safe distances between each other. Volunteer packers put the meals together into airtight containers and place them into coolers, which drivers are dropping outside of clients’ homes.

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Clients know to expect meal delivery between about 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; a knock on the door or wave through a window lets them know the meal has been dropped off.

The lack of human contact is the biggest change.

“Before this we would try to visit with them,” said Maloney, who has herself been delivering meals for more than 20 years. “That’s part of our service. I feel badly that we can’t do that for now, but our new drop-off procedure is for everyone’s safety.”

Volunteer driver and Mobile Meals board member Marie Sloan said she usually looks forward to talking with clients.

“That’s the hard part,” she said. “The distancing. We miss talking to our clients and making sure they’re okay. We have a lot of elderly clients living alone, and it’s just part of what we do.”

Mobile Meals’ Operations Manager Josephine Walsh has been speaking with clients and their families on the phone, making sure they are faring well and reassuring them that their meals will continue to be delivered.

The majority of Mobile Meals’ regular volunteers are continuing to deliver meals during the pandemic, and the organization has recently heard from new volunteers looking to help in the community during this uncertain time. Meanwhile, restaurants in Westfield have stepped up and offered to donate food down the road should items become scarce, and Mayor Shelley Brindle has offered her support.

This week, Westfield’s Mobile Meals clients were provided with a hard copy of an announcement from Westfield Chief of Police Chris Battiloro that the department has offered delivery of essential goods to the town’s senior citizens.

Do you or someone you know need the services of Mobile Meals? Unlike Meals on Wheels (which requires clients to be at least 60 years old, live alone and be unable to shop for themselves) Mobile Meals has no restrictions on who can sign up. Volunteers deliver to homes in Westfield, Mountainside, Fanwood, Garwood, Scotch Plains, Clark and Cranford. Clients pay a fee of $10.50 a day for lunch and dinner, or $7.50 for dinner only.

To donate, volunteer or to sign up to receive meals, click here.

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