UTAH (ABC4) – Not only is the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to put a strain on hospitals and the education system, it’s also affecting the job market.
The Meals on Wheels program works diligently to combat hunger among Utah’s elderly, and now they’re facing massive driver shortages.
Utah County’s chapter of Meals On Wheels says for the first time in 14 years, they’ve had to start a waiting list because they simply don’t have enough drivers. Stephanie Benson, who oversees public relations for the organization, says fortunately, they’ve been able to continue delivering to homebound seniors throughout Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties.
Due to the current demand, Benson tells ABC4 that office staff have started to pick up shifts. even though the administrative work must get done, the meals still need to get out.
She says many of their current volunteer staff have had to step down from helping due to COVID-19 infections or caring for someone who has contracted the virus.
Luckily, the organization has backup drivers they can lean on to help pick up the slack.
Brian Webb is a retiree and has been a Meals on Wheels backup driver for about 2 years. Webb starts his day picking up the prepared meals from the Spanish Fork Jail and gets them ready for volunteers to distribute on their designated shifts.
“I start about 8:00 a.m. go get the truck loaded with all the meals for the day,” Webb tells ABC4. Brian also delivers meals himself to homebound seniors in Northern Utah County as well senior centers.
The organization delivers roughly around 650 meals a day to seniors in need of a hot meal and nearly 500 more meals to senior citizen facilities through Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties each day.
Stephanie Benson says “the need for meals has skyrocketed since covid we thought it would die down, but it has not.”
As a matter of fact, in 2021, she says they delivered over 400,000 meals.
Stephanie Benson says volunteers are only required to help about an hour a week and many shifts can be done during a lunch hour or whenever they have free time, but most of all, it just feels good to be able to make someone’s day.
“It’s hands-on, you get to see the effects of your service immediately when you serve,” Benson says.
Benson says there’s a bit of process in the onboarding, but this is a great way to get out of the house and put a smile on some of Utah’s senior community’s faces.
If you’re interested in driving or being a volunteer, there’s a sign-up form.