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HOMEBOUND AND HUNGRY

The Executive Director of CityMeals On Wheels Beth Shapiro and their Senior Director of their volunteer programs and corporate engagement Vivienne O’Neill join us to discuss their harrowing work in this time of crisis.

AIRED: January 12, 2021 | 0:13:16
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO

"METROFOCUS."

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

YOU KNOW, DESPITE THE ARRIVAL OF

THE CORONAVIRUS VACCINE, MANY

NEW YORKERS ARE STILL FACING A

VERY UNCERTAIN AND ANXIOUS

WINTER.

THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE FOR THE

CITY'S HOME-BOUND SENIORS WHO

REMAIN THE MOST VULNERABLE TO

THE VIRUS.

NOT ONLY THAT, BUT MANY OF THE

PROTOCOLS PUT IN PLACE TO

PROTECT THOSE FROM THE VIRUS PUT

SOME OF THE SENIORS AT AN

INCREASED RISK OF GOING HUNGRY.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THE

CHALLENGES OF SERVING OLDER AND

POORER NEW YORKERS AT A TIME OF

CRISES ARE BETH SHAPIRO, THE

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CITY MEALS

ON WHEELS, AND VIVIENNE O'NEILL,

CITY MEALS SENIOR DIRECTOR OF

VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS AND CORPORATE

ENGAGEMENT.

THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US

TODAY FOR A VERY IMPORTANT

TOPIC.

>> THANK YOU.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING

US.

>> BETH, LET ME START WITH YOU.

YOU KNOW, I THINK IT IS SAFE TO

SAY MOST NEW YORKERS HAVE HEARD

ABOUT CITY MEALS ON WHEELS, AND

MOST OF US KNOW THAT IT HAS

SOMETHING TO DO WITH DELIVERING

MEALS.

BUT BEYOND THAT, I THINK MANY OF

US, AT LEAST, DON'T KNOW REALLY

HOW YOU FUNCTION, WHERE YOU

STARTED, ALL OF THAT STUFF.

I WONDER IF YOU COULD BRIEFLY

GIVE US A HISTORY OF THE

ORGANIZATION, WHAT YOUR MISSION

IS AND HOW YOU ACCOMPLISH THAT

MISSION ON A DAILY BASIS?

>> SURE.

I WOULD LOVE TO.

AGAIN, THANK YOU.

SO CITY MEALS ON WHEELS WAS

FOUNDED NEARLY 40 YEARS AGO TO

MAKE SURE HOME-BOUND ELDERLY NEW

YORKERS HAD FOOD EVERY DAY OF

THE YEAR.

OUR FOUNDERS HAD READ AN ARTICLE

IN THE NEWSPAPER IN NOVEMBER OF

1981 WHERE OLDER NEW YORKERS

WERE GOING FOUR DAYS WITHOUT

FOOD BECAUSE THE ARTICLE WAS

WRITTEN RIGHT IN ADVANCE OF

THANKSGIVING, RIGHT WHEN THE

CITY WAS CLOSED DOWN.

SO THE CITY FUNDS MEALS MONDAY

THROUGH FRIDAY AS LONG AS

THERE'S NO HOLIDAY, AND OUR

FOUNDERS BELIEVED THAT PEOPLE

NEED FOOD EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR,

JUST LIKE YOU AND I DO.

SO THEY RALLIED FRIENDS IN THE

RESTAURANT COMMUNITY WHERE THEY

WORKED AND RAISED MONEY, CALLED

THE CITY AND SAID, "WE'LL DO THE

NEXT HOLIDAY," THINKING IT WAS A

ONE-TIME THING, AND THAT WAS

CHRISTMAS.

THEY DELIVERED 6,000 CHRISTMAS

MEALS WITH $35,000 THAT THEY HAD

RAISED.

SINCE THAT TIME, CITY MEALS HAS

NOW DELIVERED OVER 63 MILLION

MEALS TO OLDER NEW YORKERS TOO

FRAIL TO SHOP OR COOK FOR

THEMSELVES.

THEY'VE HAD ACTIVE, PRODUCTIVE

LIVES AND ARE NOW JUST OUTLIVED

THEIR ABILITY TO CARE FOR

THEMSELVES, WHETHER IT IS

PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL

DISABILITIES.

YOU KNOW, THEY'RE TOO FRAIL TO

WALK TO A MARKET AND CARRY FOOD

HOME WITH THEM AND WE MAKE SURE

THEY'RE GETTING A MEAL EVERY DAY

OF THE YEAR, WEEKENDS, HOLIDAYS,

AND PARTICULARLY TIMES OF

EMERGENCY.

>> ALL RIGHT.

SO, VIVIENNE, THAT'S WHAT YOU

HAVE BEEN DOING FOR FOUR DECADES

NOW.

HERE COMES COVID, THE COVID

PANDEMIC.

HOW HAS THAT IMPACTED OUR

TRANSFORMED THE WAY YOU DO

BUSINESS OR THE KIND OF BUSINESS

YOU DO?

>> WELL, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT

HAS OCCURRED WITH THIS PANDEMIC,

WE HAD NEARLY 8,000 VOLUNTEERS

WHO HAVE GIVEN US OVER 29,000

HOURS OF SERVICE TO MAKE SURE

THAT OUR SENIORS, OUR FRAIL

SENIORS ARE NOURISHED ON A DAILY

BASIS AND ALSO CHECKING IN ON

THEM.

THE PANDEMIC HAS CHANGED THE

WHOLE LANDSCAPE OF WHAT WE DO AT

CITY MEALS ON WHEELS, AND WE HAD

TO PIVOT ON THE DROP OF A DIME

TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR SENIORS

ARE TAKEN CARE OF.

AND WE DID THIS BY FOLLOWING ALL

OF THE PROTOCOLS THAT WERE GIVEN

TO US, MAKING SURE THAT

VOLUNTEERS HAVE MASKS AND

GLOVES, TEMPERATURES ARE BEING

CHECKED, AND WHEN THEY GO TO

MAKE THOSE DELIVERIES, WHICH ARE

CRITICAL DURING THESE TIMES, TO

HAVE THAT FACE-TO-FACE DELIVERY,

THAT THEY KNOW THEY HAVE TO

STAND BACK AT LEAST SIX FEET AND

TO MAKE SURE THAT THE SENIOR IS

HOME TO RECEIVE THE MEAL AND

CHECKING IN ON THEM AND LETTING

US KNOW IF THERE IS ANYTHING,

ANY CHANGES IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT

SO THAT WE CAN REACT TO IT

IMMEDIATELY.

>> SO, BETH, I READ RECENTLY

THAT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HAS

CHANGED SINCE COVID HIT US IS

THAT MANY MORE SENIORS ARE GOING

TO YOUR ORGANIZATION FOR FOOD.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT COVID THAT IS

RESULTING IN MORE SENIORS

NEEDING YOUR SERVICE?

>> YEAH, I MEAN I THINK WE'RE

ALL FEELING THE EFFECTS OF

ISOLATION IN A WAY THAT WE NEVER

HAVE, AND WE'RE DEALING WITH

OLDER NEW YORKERS WHO ARE

VULNERABLE.

PRIOR TO COVID, YOU KNOW, THEY

WERE HOME BOUND, AND NOW WE ARE

SEEING OLDER NEW YORKERS WHO

SHOULDN'T BE GOING OUT TO THE

GROCERY EVEN WITH A MASK OR

GLOVES ON.

THEY RUN THE RISK OF GETTING

EXTREMELY ILL FROM THE VIRUS

SHOULD THEY GET IT, SO WE HAVE

SEEN OUR ROLLS INCREASE.

I AM VERY PROUD TO SAY WE HAVE

NOT MISSED A SINGLE DELIVERY.

IN FACT, OUR NUMBERS HAVE GROWN

SUBSTANTIALLY.

WE'VE DELIVERED OVER 2 MILLION

MEALS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF

MARCH.

800,000 OF THOSE ARE EMERGENCY

MEALS.

SO WE ARE FEEDING, OF COURSE,

THOSE WE WERE ALREADY FEEDING.

WE'VE ADDED OVER 2,000 NEW

RECIPIENTS TO OUR REGULAR

DELIVERIES, AND WE FED OVER

40,000 OTHER OLDER NEW YORKERS

WHO, AS YOU SAY, ARE INCREASING

NUMBERS OF PEOPLE NEEDING FOOD.

>> SO, VIVIENNE, YOU ARE

RESPONSIBLE FOR VOLUNTEERS AND,

AS I UNDERSTAND IT, CITY MEALS

DEPENDS GREATLY ON VOLUNTEERS.

FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS THE RATIO

BETWEEN VOLUNTEERS AND PAID

STAFF ON CITY MEALS?

SECONDLY, HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC

AFFECTED THE RECRUITMENT OF

VOLUNTEERS?

>> WELL, WE HAVE HUNDREDS OF

STAFF OUT THERE WHO ARE

DELIVERING MEALS, AND WITH THAT

WE -- WITH THE THOUSANDS OF

VOLUNTEERS THAT WE HAVE

RECRUITED THROUGHOUT -- WE HAVE

NOT MISSED A DELIVERY.

THE IMPACT ON RECRUITMENT DUE TO

THE COVID, IN THE BEGINNING

PEOPLE WERE NOT COMING OUT.

HOWEVER, OUR APPLICATION,

VOLUNTEER APPLICATION HAS

DOUBLED SINCE THEN.

SO WE'VE -- NOT ONLY DO WE FOCUS

ON MAKING SURE THAT THESE VITAL

MEALS WERE GETTING OUT, BUT ALSO

DOING THOSE CHECK-INS.

WE HAVE VOLUNTEERS NOW WHO

MOBILIZE USING ZOOM AND USING

PHONE CALLS TO CALL IN AND CHECK

IN ON THE SENIORS.

WE ARE WORKING WITH VOLUNTEERS

WHO LEFT NEW YORK TO GO TO

MONTANA OR PENNSYLVANIA AND

THEY'RE STILL IN TOUCH WITH

THEIR SENIORS, TALKING TO THEM

ON THE PHONE.

>> WOW.

SO, BETH, YOU KNOW, AS YOU GUYS

MENTIONED, YOU HAVE TO INCREASE,

YOU HAVE HAD TO INCREASE AS A

RESULT OF COVID THE SECURITY,

THE PPEs, YOU'VE HAD TO MAKE

SURE PEOPLE HAD THE RIGHT

PROTECTIVE GEAR.

ON TOP OF THAT, YOU ARE SERVING

MORE PEOPLE.

HOW ARE YOU PAYING FOR THIS?

>> WE'RE SPENDING AN IMMENSE

AMOUNT OF MONEY FROM MARCH UNTIL

JULY ALONE WE PENT $4 MILLION

MORE THAN WE HAD BUDGETED FOR

THE YEAR BEFORE.

WE ARE SO GRATEFUL TO EVERYDAY

NEW YORKERS, INDIVIDUALS,

FOUNDATIONS, BUSINESSES WHO

RECOGNIZE THE NEED FOR FOOD AND

THE INCREASED AMOUNT OF FOOD

INSECURITY OF OLDER PEOPLE BEING

HUNGRY, AND WE HAVE BEEN

BLESSED, QUITE FRANKLY, TO BE

ABLE TO COME CLOSE TO COVERING

OUR ADDITIONAL EXPENSES WITH

THIS.

WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL, BOTH, OF

COURSE, FOR OUR VOLUNTEERS BUT

FOR THE DONORS WHO ARE

SUPPORTING US AND RECOGNIZING

THE NEED AS NEVER BEFORE.

>> WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST -- FOR

YOUR WHOLE OPERATION, WHAT IS

YOUR BIGGEST SOURCE OF FUNDING?

IS IT THE GOVERNMENT?

IS IT FOUNDATIONS OR IS IT

INDIVIDUAL DONORS?

>> WE HAVE ABOUT A $21 MILLION

BUDGET NORMALLY.

WE ARE PROBABLY TOUCHING CLOSE

TO $30 MILLION THIS YEAR.

WE GET ABOUT 12% OF OUR FUNDING

FROM THE GOVERNMENT, FROM THE

CITY OF NEW YORK.

THE REST IS INDIVIDUAL DONORS,

AND THAT'S WHERE, YOU KNOW, YOU

LOOK AT 30,000, 40,000, 50,000

INDIVIDUALS COMING OUT TO

SUPPORT CITY MEALS, PARTLY

KNOWING BECAUSE 100% OF EVERY

DONATION FROM THE GENERAL PUBLIC

WILL GO TO MEAL PREPARATION AND

DELIVERY.

I THINK THAT IS A POINT OF

DIFFERENCE FOR US AND REALLY

CRITICAL FOR PEOPLE WHEN THEY

WANT TO DONATE.

THEY KNOW WHERE THE MONEY IS

GOING.

>> YOU KNOW, I READ THAT.

HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

>> OUR BOARD.

OUR BOARD IS INCREDIBLY GENEROUS

AND THEY ALLOW US TO USE THEIR

DONATIONS FOR OUR ADMINISTRATIVE

COSTS, AND WE DO ALSO GET A

GRANT FROM THE CITY.

PART OF THE MONEY FROM THE CITY

DOES COVER ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS.

>> VIVIENNE, YOU TOUCHED ABOUT

HOW YOUR VOLUNTEERS STAY IN

CONTACT ON THE PHONE WITH YOUR

RECIPIENTS, BUT THE FACT OF THE

MATTER IS THAT COVID HAS IMPOSED

THESE SOCIAL DISTANCING AND

SEPARATION.

YOUR MAIN MISSION CLEARLY IS TO

FEED ELDERLY WHO WILL MIGHT NOT

HAVE THAT FOOD AVAILABLE

OTHERWISE, BUT PART OF YOUR

MISSION, NEARLY AS IMPORTANT,

HAS TO BE THE FACT OF BRINGING

COMPANIONSHIP TO YOUR RECIPIENTS

WHO ARE, YOU KNOW, LONELY IN

MANY CASES.

HOW HAS COVID AFFECTED THAT

ASPECT?

>> ABSOLUTELY.

THE COMPANION SERVES AS A MAJOR

PART OF IT, AND WE HAVE A DEEPER

UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT SOCIAL

ISOLATION IS AT THIS POINT.

BETH SPOKE ABOUT THE CORPORATE

GROUPS THAT ARE WORKING WITH US,

AND THEY GIVE TO US FINANCIALLY

BUT THEY ALSO PROVIDE THEIR OWN

TEAM OF STAFF TO HELP US MAKE

THOSE WELLNESS CALLS, THOSE

CHECK-INS ONCE A WEEK, TWICE A

WEEK, 15 MINUTES TO AN HOUR JUST

TO CHECK IN ON THE SENIORS, TO

MAKE SURE THAT THEY'RE OKAY.

SO WE'RE STILL ABIDING BY OUR

MISSION.

IT IS JUST THAT RIGHT NOW WE'RE

NOT DOING AS MUCH FACE-TO-FACE.

WE ARE STILL DELIVERING THE

MEALS, WHICH IS PART OF THE

FACE-TO-FACE, BUT WE HAVE

MOBILIZED MORE VOLUNTEERS TO

MAKE THOSE CALLS, MULTIPLE,

MULTIPLE CALLS.

>> AND, BETH, YOU KNOW, AS I

SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, THE

VACCINES ARE ALREADY BEING

DISTRIBUTED, BUT AT THE SAME

TIME WE'RE BEING TOLD BY EXPERTS

AND ELECTED OFFICIALS THAT IT

WILL BE A BAD COVID WINTER, MORE

CASES, MORE HOSPITALIZATIONS,

MORE DEATH.

AS A RESULT, MOST CLOSING UP OF

THE CITY.

HOW ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THAT?

>> WE HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH AS AN

EMERGENCY PROVIDER FOR THE CITY

OVER THE PAST DECADES.

WE WERE HERE FOR 9/11.

WE WERE BOTH HERE FOR HURRICANE

SANDY, AND WE WERE READY.

I MEAN WE WEREN'T PREPARED FOR

THE LONGEVITY AND SCOPE OF THE

PANDEMIC, BUT WE HAVE HAD FOOD

ON HAND IN OUR WAREHOUSE.

WE HAVE EIGHT MORE MONTHS OF

FOOD READY TO GO AT A MOMENT'S

NOTICE.

SO WE ARE PREPARING FOR THE

WORST AND HOPING FOR THE BEST,

AND REALLY WE WILL MAKE SURE

THAT OLDER NEW YORKERS GET A

MEAL EVERY DAY THAT THEY NEED.

THEY NEED IT.

>> DO YOU THINK THAT COVID HAS

TRANSFORMED THE WAY YOU DO

BUSINESS PERMANENTLY?

WILL IT BE DIFFERENT AFTER

COVID?

>> I DO.

I THINK THERE IS A LOT OF

LEARNING THAT WE HAVE GONE

THROUGH THROUGH COVID.

I THINK THAT WE'RE MORE

EFFECTIVE.

WE ARE MORE EFFICIENT IN HOW WE

DO THINGS.

WE HAVE CHANGED THINGS AT OUR

EMERGENCY MEAL DISTRIBUTION

CENTER.

VIV AND HER TEAM ARE ORIENTING,

DOING VOLUNTEER ORIENTATION JUST

LIKE THIS, VIA ZOOM.

I THINK THOSE ARE THINGS THAT

WILL HOLD INTO THE FUTURE TO

HELP US EXPAND OUR REACH,

BECAUSE I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW,

AS YOU SAID, THE VACCINE IS

HERE, BUT IT IS GOING TO BE A

LONG TIME BEFORE EVERYONE GETS

THAT VACCINE, BEFORE PEOPLE FEEL

SAFE AGAIN.

I THINK WE WILL BE WEARING MASKS

FOR A YEAR OR TWO TO COME, AND

WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE ARE

NOUR

NOURISHING THE OLDER NEW YORKERS

WHO BUILT THIS CITY FOR US.

>> WE HAVE ABOUT 15 SECONDS LEFT

AND I HAVE TO ASK YOU THIS.

IF OUR VIEWERS WANT TO

VOLUNTEER, WANT TO DONATE OR

BECOME RECIPIENTS, VIVIENNE, IN

15 SECONDS HOW DO THEY GET HOLD

OF YOU.

>> CITYMEALS.org.

YOU CAN ASK FOR MEALS, TO

VOLUNTEER, TO DONATE.

>> ALL RIGHT.

AND THEN WE WILL TRY TO PUT IT

ON OUR WEBSITE AS WELL.

BOTH OF YOU, THANK YOU SO MUCH

FOR JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT

THIS VERY IMPORTANT TOPIC.

THANK YOU.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING

US.

>> OKAY, BYE-BYE.

>> BYE-BYE.