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Icy roads keeping Wake Meals on Wheels parked

Posted February 27, 2015

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— The winter storms of the past two weeks left about 1,300 senior citizens and homebound people without food delivery most days from Meals on Wheels of Wake County.

The organization has delivered meals only one day in each of the past two weeks. Executive Director Alan Winstead blames icy conditions, noting it wasn't safe for its 150 or so volunteers – many are senior citizens themselves – to go to the Meals on Wheels office to prepare the meals and then head out on the road to deliver them.

"For us to have extended closing days and then to have two weeks back to back like that ... is an exception, and it’s a concern for all of us – our participants, our staff, our volunteers," Winstead said.

Meals on Wheels relies on the Wake County Public School System to determine if roads are safe enough to operate. When local schools are closed, as they were Feb. 17-20 and again Tuesday through Friday this week, Meals on Wheels of Wake County doesn't deliver meals.

"We always plan for some inclement weather during the winter months," he said, noting that Meals on Wheels delivers non-perishable foods such as canned soup and crackers to clients to have on hand in case meals cannot be delivered.

"That will not cover eight days in a two-week time period," he said of the non-perishable supplies. "Because we had bad storms last week and this week, we were unable to replenish that food that we normally would give to people."

Meals on Wheels of Wake County staff and volunteers have been calling to check on clients who don't have another support system, and Winstead asked that area residents reach out, if possible, to any homebound people in their neighborhoods to make sure they've got enough to eat.

Not all Meals on Wheels programs use school closures as a guide. Durham County volunteers, for example, delivered meals three days in each of the past two weeks, as well as handing out food in advance for the other days.

"We typically have three shelf-stable meals in the building per client," said Gale Adland, director of Meals on Wheels of Durham.

Adland said her organization used supplies from area food banks and held food drives at local churches so volunteers could put together cold meals and provide non-perishables to seniors as their stocks ran low.

"Not all of our regular drivers will drive in the snow," she said. "Those who are comfortable and willing will contact us and fill in. It is a wonderful group effort."

Winstead said it might be time to reconsider his organization's weather policy, but he's hopeful to resume service Monday.

"That’s our business, to get meals out to people who need them," he said. "We just have to look, maybe, at a different model for extended periods of bad weather."

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