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October 7, 2021

Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio & Northern Kentucky CEO Jennifer Steele Joins National Board of Meals on Wheels America


Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio & Northern Kentucky, has been elected to the Board of Directors for Meals on Wheels America.
This is the first time a Cincinnati executive has been appointed to the board of directors of Meals on Wheels America, the national organization, which represents more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior hunger and isolation.
Steele has served as CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, a non-profit that delivers essential services allowing seniors to remain healthy, happy and independent in their homes, for two years.
“Notwithstanding that these past 18 months have tested us all more than we could have imagined, our Membership came together under the most challenging of circumstances to provide more services to more people in new and creative ways,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO, Meals on Wheels America. “I’m excited to see the new heights our expanded and esteemed Board of Directors, including Jennifer Steele, can help us reach – for the sake of the Association, for our Members and, most importantly, for older adults in need nationwide.”
Over the last year, Steele has led the non-profit through transformative change making the organization one of the largest Meals on Wheels in the country through a strategic merger with Cincinnati Area Senior Services (CASS). The organizational transformation successfully resulted in a $4 million grant from McKenzie Scott, which will help Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY tackle the “crisis in aging” concerns in Greater Cincinnati with innovative long-term solutions.
Since 1992, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, formerly Wesley Community Services, has delivered essential services that promote the independence of seniors so they may remain in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible. Today’s services include: Meals on Wheels, Independent Living Assistance, Area Senior Services, and Pet Portions Pet Care.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2021

Meals on Wheels Expands to Northern Kentucky to Serve More Seniors

INDEPENDENCE, KYMeals on Wheels of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky held an open house for community partners and members of the media at its new satellite location, 10100 Toebben Drive, Independence, Kentucky. The new location will help bring much needed space to accommodate the growth in meals to seniors.

The new Meals on Wheels location will allow the organization to show its expanded commitment to partner with Northern Kentucky agencies and provide enhanced service to Northern Kentucky seniors through dedicated routes, vehicles, storage and distribution space. It also provides a more robust position for Meals on Wheels to respond to the crisis in aging, especially in Kentucky. The Commonwealth currently has the highest rate of food insecurity among people aged 50-59 in the nation. Every day, some of these individuals become seniors.

The Open House included special pie deliveries from the Meals on Wheels “Pie Mobile” and an apple cart from Locust Creek Caramel Apples.




SEPTEMBER 19, 2021

Bust A Crust! Pie-K 5K debuts with More Than 200 Participants


CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky held their inaugural Bust a Crust! Pie-K 5K Run/Walk on Sunday, Sep. 19, 8:30 a.m. at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum to support the organization’s mission to provide meals for more than 10,000 local seniors. A crowd of more than 400 people attended the event, including registered participants, volunteers, and families. 
The top finisher for the Bust a Crust! Pie K was Tom Kaylor, who finished in 06:14. The first-place woman was Jaclyn Ruschman with a time of 07:40. 
Runners both young and old participated in the Pie K. Tatiana Buckler, 11, had the best time of the under-12 runners, finishing at 09:34. Second place in that division went to Daniel Wimmers, 11, with a time of 11:53. In the senior category Frances Gilbert, 83, had the best time of older female runners, finishing at 19:23. For the older men, tBuck Niehoff, 74, placed first, finishing in 15:59.
Following the Bust a Crust! Pie-K 5K, runners enjoyed pie and other treats from Frisch’s Big Boy, drinks and music from DJ Brandon Scott Perry of Sound for Days.
The Bust a Crust! Pie-K 5K was generously sponsored by Graydon, Driehaus Insurance Group, JTM Food Group, Champlin Architecture, Barnes Dennig, Bartlett Wealth Management, Doscher’s Candy Co., Enterprise Fleet Management, Happy Go Healthy, Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, LK Tech, Mutual of America Financial Group, Revecore, Ritter & Randolph, Robert Half, Senior Impact Publications, Skyline Chili, Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Strategic Benefits, Vomela Companies, Belflex Staffing Network, Clark Schaefer Hackett, Huntington National Bank, Millennium Business Systems, Prairie Farms, Preferred Packaging, Republic Bank, Rumpke and Wordsworth.
The Bust a Crust! Pie-K 5K kicks off the hugely popular Bust a Crust! annual fundraiser scheduled for Oct. 15 through Nov. 15, 2021. Meals on Wheels expects to sell nearly 10,000 pies to benefit seniors in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region. Bust a Crust! is presented by Frisch's Big Boy. Pies are donated by generous Pie Masters including Cherbourg Cypress, Chartwells, Chubby Bunny Bakery, The Fresh Market Oakley, Fork and Pie Bakery, MAKERS BAKERS Co., Mama Rose’s, Meijer, Nay Mama’s Sweet Treats, Perkins, Reinhart, Station BBQ, Sweets by LaDawn, Taste of Belgium, and UC Dining Services. 

APRIL 27, 2021

The grant will fund new kitchen equipment to help us meet increasing demand

CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY received a $100,000 grant from the L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation to purchase a new plating and sealing machine for its commercial-grade kitchen. The critical equipment will allow Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, the region’s largest Meals on Wheels provider, to continue meeting the rising need for its services among local seniors. 

“This new equipment will enable us to meaningfully increase our production capacity, allowing us to serve even more seniors in the coming months and years,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “We are so grateful to the L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation for their generous support which will meaningfully improve the lives of so many in our community.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, requests for Meals on Wheels’ services have significantly increased. Meals on Wheels now produces more than a million meals per year, up from 250,000 meals per year. The nonprofit’s offerings include a full menu of 30+ traditional meal choices, along with 10 special menu options for seniors with specific dietary and medical needs, such as diabetes or Celiac disease. 

The new plating and sealing machine will replace Meals on Wheels’ existing machine, which is out-of-date and too small for the growing nonprofit’s needs. The new equipment will also allow Meals on Wheels to create its own meal labels with large with more nutritional details and in a larger, easier-to-read fonts.

The L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation is a Cincinnati-based nonprofit dedicated to continuing Louis and Louise Nippert’s long-standing philanthropic efforts to benefit the residents of the tri-state area.

APRIL 8, 2021


CINCINNATIJennifer Steele, the CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, has been named a Distinguished Alumna by Northern Kentucky University’s Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) program.

The program noted that Steel, a 2010 graduate, was selected for “her vision and agility in leading Meals on Wheels through change and innovation during the past few years, including a major rebranding and a merger.” In addition, the program called out Steele’s “leadership in serving and helping people and communities in Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati."

Steele will receive her award and share insights about work in public service career on Wednesday, April 28, beginning at 7:00 pm on Zoom. Those interested in joining the virtual program can RSVP to

Earlier this year, Steele was recognized with a Leadership Legacy Award from The Leadership Council of Nonprofits. They recognized Steele with their VUCA Award for “positively impacting her organization and the community through demonstrated Vision, Understanding, Clarity & Agility in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous world.”


FEBRUARY 23, 2021


CINCINNATI—The Over-the-Rhine Senior Center, at 1722 Race Street, is reopening in a limited manner after being temporarily closed about a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns for senior and staff health and safety. For the time being, the Center will operate on a limited capacity to those adults 60 and over who have been vaccinated. In addition, temperature and illness checks will be performed daily on all who enter. Social distancing will also be enforced.
Pre-registration is required. Seniors can do so by calling the Center at 513-381-3007.
The Center provides a comfortable, friendly environment where seniors can socialize, enjoy activities as well as eat breakfast and lunch.
The Center has a monthly calendar of activities, such as group birthday parties, bingo, trivia quizzes and speakers on topics important to older adults. Twice a month, a late afternoon meal is offered with bingo, a movie or other activity. Other activities, like dancing and cornhole, are spontaneous.
“From one day to the next you don’t know what we might do, but we know it’ll be good fun and interesting,” said Cheryl Ware, the Senior Center’s director.
The Senior Center is located at 1722 Race Street in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine. It’s between W. Elder and Green Streets, a block from Findlay Market. It’s open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Bus transportation to and from the Center is available. To learn more, call 513-721-0375.
Activities, meals and transportation are free to anyone who is at least 60 years old. Seniors are encouraged to contribute $1 per meal and can do so anonymously, but no one is denied a meal if they are unable to contribute. 
Breakfast is served weekdays at 8:30 a.m. Lunch is served at noon. When seniors call to pre-register, they will be asked if they plan to eat so the appropriate amount of food is prepared.

FEBRUARY 23, 2021


Cincinnati Area Senior Services and Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern Kentucky are Combining Operations

CINCINNATI The Over-the-Rhine Senior Center, at 1722 Race Street, is reopening in a limited manner after being temporarily closed about a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns for senior and staff health and safety. For the time being, the Center will operate on a limited capacity to those adults 60 and over who have been vaccinated. In addition, temperature and illness checks will be performed daily on all who enter. Social distancing will also be enforced.

Two nonprofits that serve older adults in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have merged to form one of the largest local community-based organizations that provides direct services to seniors. 
The merger of Cincinnati Area Senior Services and Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY will serve more than 10,000 seniors annually with about 150 employees and 800 volunteers. The number of meals delivered to seniors’ homes per year is likely to exceed 1.4 million. 
The organizations have chosen to use the name “Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY” because of the strong, positive recognition of the Meals on Wheels brand.
The leaders of both nonprofits are confident this action will position the organizations to provide the best possible services for many years. Seniors need these services now more than ever, not only because of the pandemic but also because of the ongoing, exponential growth in their population. That growth is outpacing the resources available to serve seniors and putting their health and well-being in jeopardy.
“This merger makes a bold statement -- and a promise: Working with our communities, our combined organization will tackle the challenges facing us so that every senior enjoys the support and dignity that they deserve,” said Jennifer Steele, who will serve as CEO of the merged organization.
The larger scale of the organization, along with a $4 million grant last year from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, will fuel innovation -- to bring about transformational change. The leaders also believe there is a significant opportunity to eliminate duplication of services between the organizations.
“This is a great day for seniors and together we are going to do amazing things,” said Tracey Collins, CEO of CASS. She will be Chief Integration Officer for the merged organization. “It just makes sense with limited funding to join forces and strengthen our services for seniors.”
The organizations have remarkable similarities, including their main missions -- to help seniors live independently and thrive. Both organizations have substantial Meals on Wheels programs that provide 
food and a check on the well-being of seniors. Combined, the organizations have more than 135 years of dedication to seniors.
As the nonprofits work to combine their operations, they have lots of details to sort out, but they know this:
  • They will retain all of their programs and services.
  • No one will lose their job due to the merger. In fact, more job opportunities are expected. 
“The merger of Meals on Wheels and CASS makes sense from every angle,” said Michael Murphy, who will be the new board vice-chair. “By coming together, these two strong organizations gain efficiencies that will allow them to channel their focus on continued growth and innovation. Every senior, and every person who cares about them, should celebrate this news -- and anticipate many good things to come as a result.”
Dan Driehaus, who will be the chair of the new board, emphasized the important role that the delivery drivers play in checking on seniors. “Amazon knows how to deliver a box. We know the importance of visiting seniors to check on their welfare. We take time to observe their environment. We chat. We listen. We care. For many of our seniors, our meal delivery person might be the only person they interact with all day. Our meal delivery is simply an extension of our interest in their well-being.”


# # # 

About Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY: Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, formerly Wesley Community Services, is a nonprofit organization providing support services that help seniors remain independent and thrive. It is the largest Meals on Wheels provider in its 12-county service region. Explore this website to learn more. 
About Cincinnati Area Senior Services: Cincinnati Area Senior Services, a nonprofit organization, provides services to older adults to help them live independently, stay healthy and enjoy life. It serves all of Hamilton County, including Cincinnati, as well as some surrounding areas. Its Meals on Wheels program, which delivers hundreds of thousands of meals annually, is the largest program of its kind in Hamilton County.

FEBRUARY 10, 2021


CINCINNATI—The Leadership Council of Nonprofits will recognize Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY, with a Leadership Legacy Award. These awards are presented to leaders of nonprofits who demonstrate great efforts to “secure the future” of their organizations and the communities they serve. 
Steele has been selected to receive the “VUCA Leader Award,” which recognizes someone in the Greater Cincinnati nonprofit sector who is positively impacting their organization and the community through demonstrated Vision, Understanding, Clarity & Agility in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous world.
“Jennifer has definitely earned this honor,” said Michael Murphy, board chair of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “Since taking the helm of our organization about two years ago, Jennifer has exhibited remarkable vision and bottomless energy. We’re now a stronger organization and our future is brighter than ever. And that’s great news for the seniors in our community.”
Steele will receive her award at the Securing the Future Conference on March 4. For more about information about the conference and The Leadership Council of Nonprofits, visit their website.


JANUARY 14, 2021



CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY recently welcomed Mary Wagner, P&G SVP and CEO of iMFLUX, to its board. Wagner spent her career at P&G where she worked in various positions across the supply chain, working in both the US and China.  In 2018, Wagner was appointed to run iMFLUX, a wholly owned subsidiary of P&G, that supplies molds and a new to the world injection molding process technology to P&G and customers around the world.

“I’m excited to join Meals on Wheels’ board to help support this critically important organization,” said Wagner. “Seniors in our community need support now more than ever, and I look forward to working with the Meals on Wheels team and other board members to continue providing existing and new services and programs.”   

iMFLUX is a startup that is partnering broadly and beginning to scale its operations with an ambitious vision to change the way the world molds. Wagner’s experience in supply chain and growing an innovative business will be especially valuable on Meals on Wheels’ board. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Mary to our board, and we know that her professional experience and passion for our mission will help guide our organization in the coming months and years as we continue to identify innovative ways to support seniors in our community,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels. 

DECEMBER 15, 2020


The gift is the largest, by far, in the organization's history


CINCINNATI — Pioneering philanthropist and award-winning author MacKenzie Scott (formerly Bezos) today announced that she donated $4 million to Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. The gift is part of her philanthropy through The Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back.

“We could never fully express our gratitude for MacKenzie Scott’s generosity. Her thoughtful and trust-based approach to philanthropy will enable our team to magnify this gift in so many ways,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH  & Northern KY. “It will catalyze innovative, creative and collaborative initiatives to meet the needs of seniors in our local community and create change on a larger scale. Together with our sustaining donors and funders, whose support and
 partnership have been so critical to our efforts to serve seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, this gift will have a deep and lasting impact on our organization and community. It is truly transformational.”
“After my post in July, I asked a team of advisors to help me accelerate my 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the crisis. They took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital,” Scott wrote in her December 15, 2020 Medium post. 
Learn more about this transformational gift here: “384 Ways to Help.”
Steele said that she has a lot of ideas for how to put the gift to use.
“Receiving this gift is such an honor. I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to immediately expand our partnership with Food Forest and others in bringing grocery and meal delivery to those who have been left behind in the technology and delivery revolution. This divide has become all the more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we began to receive calls early on from seniors who said that they could not compete in the physical store environment or navigate online grocery orderin
g without a little help. This collaboration rights an important ship within the disruption, strengthening local food systems and providing caring and intentional online grocery delivery for seniors and those living in communities without access to affordable, accessible delivery options,” said Steele. “This gift will also enable us to deeply impact disparities in existing services for seniors—including gender disparities impacting both men and women differently—through a human-centered approach in which those impacted will have a voice in the solutions.”
“The crisis in aging is a train barreling towards our community, and this gift will allow us to accelerate progress and infrastructure to meet future needs in so many ways alongside our long-term supporters, partners and volunteers,” said Steele. “We will need them more than ever.”

NOVEMBER 20, 2020

The Bust-A-Crust Campaign Raised $59,000 through pie sales, donations and partnership to feed local seniors

CINCINNATI— Hundreds of pies are ready for pickup at Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY on Saturday November 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. as part of its first annual Bust a Crust! fundraiser. The new program allowed people to purchase locally baked Thanksgiving pies—available in pumpkin, apple, and pecan—and all funds go towards feeding local seniors, with the $25 cost per pie feeding a senior for an entire week. The first year for Bust a Crust! was such a success that Meals on Wheels sold out of pies before the campaign was set to end. 

“We are so grateful to our community for supporting the Bust a Crust! program to help us raise the necessary funds to meet the increasing need in our community so no senior goes hungry this holiday season,” said Jennifer Steele, CEO of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “Requests for our Meals on Wheels services have nearly tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, so we are doing everything in our power to help feed local seniors so they can stay healthy, safe and independent in their homes.”

The heartwarming turnout for this event not only included people purchasing pies for themselves, but people purchasing pies to donate to local seniors, making additional donations, and sponsoring the program. From October 19 to November 16, the campaign reached: 

  • 1,767 pies sold or donated to seniors
  • $59,000 raised to deliver meals to seniors
  • 63 community volunteers volunteered more than 178 hours
  • 26 corporate partners

Bust a Crust! would not be possible without the pie masters who generously donated pies, including:

Busken, Kroger, Chartwells, Fork and Pie Bakery, The Lytle Park Hotel, Mama Rose’s, Nay Mama’s Sweet Treats, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, Taste of Belgium. In addition, the program received significant support from corporate sponsors: Wordsworth Communications, Robert Half, Graydon, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Barnes Denning, J.T.M Food Group, Accessible Solutions Inc., Alison & Lee Bushman, Derringer Food Service, Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Millennium Business Systems, Preferred Packaging Sales & Service, Reinhart Foods, Skyline, Storyocity, and the TQL Foundation. 

OCTOBER 17, 2020

 Every $25 pie sold enables Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY to feed a local senior fo ran entire week

CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY just launched a new program called Bust a Crust! to help people celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday while also supporting seniors in the community. Bust a Crust! allows anyone in Greater Cincinnati to purchase a locally baked pie for themselves or a loved one, and the $25 cost provides funds for Meals on Wheels to feed a local senior for an entire week. 

“Bust a Crust! will help us continue raising the necessary funds to meet the increasing need in our community so no senior goes hungry this holiday season,” said Jennifer Steele, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “Requests for our Meals on Wheels services have nearly tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, so we are doing everything in our power to help feed local seniors so they can stay healthy, safe and independent in their homes.”

Pies are available to purchase online between October 19 and November 16. There are four flavors available—apple, pecan and pumpkin—all from local sources, including Busken Bakery, Kroger, Reinhart Foods, Subito, and the Queen City Club. There is also a featured pie from Executive Chef Michael McIntosh at Subito’s in the Lytle Park Hotel. Customers can pick up their pies at Meals on Wheels’ headquarters in Price Hill (2091 Radcliff Drive) on November 21, just in time for Thanksgiving. The pies will be baked and require no refrigeration.

Individuals or groups looking to purchase pies in bulk for gifts or large gatherings can purchase them at a discount. Orders of 20 or more cost $15 per pie and orders of 50 or more cost $13 per pie. In addition, Meals on Wheels will deliver orders of 20 or more, in bulk, pies to any local address. 

“So many of us top off our Thanksgiving feasts with pie, so just think about how much better that pie will taste when you know it’s helping to feed seniors right here in our community,” said Sara Celi, a local author, Meals on Wheels board member and chairperson of Bust a Crust! “We hope people find it hard to say ‘no’ to a chance to eat well and do well at the same time.”

Bust a Crust! would not be possible without Meals on Wheels’ corporate sponsors: Storyocity, Wordsworth Communications, Robert Half, Accessible Solutions, Derringer Food Service, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Millennium Business Solutions and Skyline. (A portion of dessert sales at Subito will also be donated to Meals on Wheels during the Bust a Crust! program.)

JULY 15, 2020

The new initiative will hopefully expand in 2021 pending pilot program results, funding

CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY and Fly & Dry Basic Needs Bank are launching a new pilot program to deliver adult incontinence products to seniors in Greater Cincinnati. Fly & Dry Basic Needs Bank, whose parent organization, COVERD Greater Cincinnati, also runs Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank and Tidal Babe Period Bank, knew there was a need for incontinence products among adults in the community, so partnering with Meals on Wheels to reach seniors ages 60+ was the perfect fit.

The pilot program began in early July and includes 50 Meals on Wheels clients in Greater Cincinnati. Participants—who were identified in partnership with case managers at the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky Area Development District—will receive a pack of seven products each week with their regularly scheduled Meals on Wheels delivery. 

“We’ve seen an increase in requests for adult incontinence products from many of our partners, so we’re excited to launch this new initiative to support even more members of our community,” said Megan Fischer, CEO and Founder of Fly & Dry Basic Needs Bank. “We know that this is a sensitive topic for many adults, so being discreet and respectful through this program is one of our top priorities.” 

Fly & Dry Basic Needs Bank and Meals on Wheels are working to finalize packaging and training drivers about the new pilot to ensure that clients feel comfortable receiving the new products. 

“Basic needs such as soap, toilet paper, and personal hygiene items have become more difficult for seniors to obtain during COVID-19,” said Jennifer Steele, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels. “Incontinence supplies are necessary for the health and dignity of the seniors we serve. This partnership is already having a dramatic improvement on seniors’ quality of life and health.” 

Since seniors are most likely to develop severe complications from COVID-19, Meals on Wheels is working to provide the resources seniors need to stay safe and healthy in their homes. Since March, Meals on Wheels has developed several new initiatives to provide additional food and other necessities to home-bound seniors. The nonprofit is currently piloting a senior-focused grocery delivery app in partnership with Food Forest. In addition, Meals on Wheels launched an outreach effort where volunteers call local seniors to check in and see if they need assistance with food or other issues, and then connect them with local resources as needed. 

The new pilot is expected to extend through the end of 2020. Then, Fischer hopes to expand the program to other community partners in the region, but it will depend on available funding. While the pilot program with Meals on Wheels only serves seniors ages 60+, Fischer emphasized that adults of all ages need incontinence products for a variety of reasons, such disabilities, chronic illnesses and trauma.  


MAY 14, 2020

Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY and Food Forest partnered to develop a food delivery app in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

CINCINNATI—Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY is launching a new grocery and meal delivery app for local seniors in partnership with Food Forest as part of the nonprofit’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilot begins this week, and Meals on Wheels hopes to open the program to seniors 60+ in Greater Cincinnati in the next month. 

“We are constantly looking for ways to provide local seniors with nutritious food while allowing them to stay safe in their homes throughout this crisis,” said Jennifer Steele, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “We’re excited to pilot a program that will expand delivery options to seniors during a time when it may be difficult to safely access food on their own.” 

The Meals on Wheels-branded app is a version of Food Forest’s existing platform, which provides affordable grocery delivery to people living in food desserts, many of whom are low income. Food Forest launched in Walnut Hills in 2019 following the closure of Kroger’s location in that neighborhood.

“This partnership fits into our mission to address food insecurity and make online grocery shopping available to everyone,” said David Curtin, Founder and CEO, Food Forest. “Our goal is to help anyone who has trouble accessing fresh and affordable food, but we’re especially pleased to help seniors who are particularly at risk because of COVID-19.” 

Meals on Wheels hopes to leverage donations and grant funding to reduce the cost for low-income seniors once the platform is available to the public, which is expected to be in about one month if the pilot proves successful. In addition, all Food Forest’s services accept SNAP and EBT benefits, unlike many other grocery delivery providers in the area. 

Meals on Wheels understands that using new technology may be challenging for some seniors, so the pilot will also include innovations to help seniors understand how to best use the app. Seniors who remain uncomfortable ordering online—or who don’t have access to the necessary technology—will be able to place orders by phone for grocery and meal delivery. 

“We’re hopeful that this program will help address the digital divide among older adults,” said Steele. “Seniors often need digital services like this the most but are often the least equipped to take advantage of them without proper support.”

Meals on Wheels and Food Forest will work with other partners to implement the program, including Produce Perks, a nonprofit that doubles grocery orders of fruits and vegetables for individuals using SNAP, as well as various agencies serving seniors in the community, including the Northern Kentucky Area Development District. Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation also provided critical funding to develop the new Meals on Wheels version of Food Forest’s app.

Once the pilot program is complete and the app is adjusted based on the findings, it will be available for download. Food Forest’s existing app is available for individuals and families looking for affordable meal delivery services within an 8-mile radius of Walnut Hills, including most of the urban core and some of Northern Kentucky. 

APRIL 27, 2020

Volunteers and donations needed to support increased demand throughout COVID-19 crisis

CINCINNATI—As the coronavirus continues to threaten the health of local seniors, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY is leveraging the web-based platform Mobilize—used to engage volunteers and get out the vote during elections—to make check-in phone calls to home-bound seniors. The nonprofit launched the first-of-its-kind pilot program at the end of March and will extend the service throughout the region in the coming weeks.

Requests for Meals on Wheels’ services have nearly tripled. Many seniors who may have previously relied on family and friends for food, shopping and companionship are now alone and without financial support due to quarantine and job loss. 

Using Mobilize, Meals on Wheels can recruit, train and schedule volunteers to connect directly with seniors in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. If a senior reports food insecurity, the Meals on Wheels team can respond immediately with an emergency food delivery and assess the need for ongoing services.

“Seniors are most at-risk for serious complications from COVID-19, so we don’t want them leaving their homes to get food and increasing their chances of catching the virus,” said Jennifer Steele, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels Southwest OH & Northern KY. “No senior should go hungry during this pandemic. This new program allows us to reach seniors who may not otherwise have the necessary support system required to stay fed throughout this crisis.”

To support the influx of new seniors in need, Meals on Wheels needs urgent donations. No senior is turned away during the crisis. Without donations from individuals, foundations and corporate partners, Meals on Wheels cannot continue to meet the increased demand. Donors can make contributions online or reach out to Meals on Wheels team.

“Earlier this week, we connected with a 92-year-old senior who reported not having enough food and being scared to leave the house because of coronavirus risks,” said Steele. “We were able to secure a volunteer to deliver meals directly to that senior’s door just hours later, completely paid for by charitable donations.”

Meals on Wheels provides several donation options to support emergency meals for seniors:

  • $50 provides a nonperishable 14-day emergency box of meals
  • $100 buys a month of dairy and fresh produce
  • $250 supports one month of home-delivered lunches
  • $600 provides one month of breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • $1,250 provides 6 months of home-delivered lunches

Volunteers who participated in the pilot program have already connected with nearly 2,000 local seniors. To be able to reach seniors throughout the entire region in coming weeks, Meals on Wheels needs approximately 90 additional volunteers to make calls. 

Jens Sutmoller, a political campaign and public affairs consultant, developed the idea and brought it to Meals on Wheels. He continues working closely with the Meals on Wheels team on a pro bono basis to help establish the call campaign. 

“I’ve worked with phonebank and volunteer technology like Mobilize in the past, and it is the perfect platform to help Meals on Wheels increase its reach to connect with more seniors in need throughout this crisis,” said Sutmoller. “I’m proud to support Meals on Wheels’ efforts with these repurposed tools.” 

Meals on Wheels is also collaborating with United Way of Greater Cincinnati, one of the program’s initial funders, to incorporate United Way’s 211 support system into the Mobilize platform.

“We know seniors are at high risk during this pandemic and in need of food, but many have other needs too, and they don’t know where to turn,” said Moira Weir, United Way of Greater Cincinnati President and CEO. “Through our ongoing collaboration with Meals on Wheels, we were able to connect their technology to our 211 system and offer seniors other resources for paying rent, filling medications and meeting other needs so they stay safe at home.”