WesleyLife, provider of nearly 1,000 meals a day to older adults and military veterans of all ages across the Des Moines Metro through its Meals on Wheels program, is celebrating a milestone this week: 3 million meals delivered to nutritionally vulnerable Central Iowans.
“This number represents a huge impact we all can be proud of, especially our dedicated team-member and volunteer drivers,” Heather Stuyvesant, director of community nutrition for WesleyLife, said. “I can say with certainty, though, that the number is a small one compared to where we are headed!”
WesleyLife Meals on Wheels was established in 2006 when WesleyLife acquired Generations, Inc., a then-60-year-old senior-services agency that offered meals and public-health care.
Since then, Meals on Wheels has grown to serve all of Polk County and areas of Dallas County, providing meals and well-being checks to thousands of individuals and also supplying meals to all congregate-meal sites in Polk County.
“In all reality, we have delivered more than 3 million meals, but that’s the total since we began tracking electronically,” Stuyvesant said. “But the 3-million number is a great illustration of the critical need that’s met by our services every day.
“Food insecurity impacts more than 10,000 Central Iowans age 65 and older, and we know that when someone is not receiving adequate nourishment, that person is vulnerable to any number of health issues. So our mission compels us every day to broaden the reach of our services.”
To that end, a new Meals on Wheels campus, made possible by donor support, is under construction near Drake University in Des Moines to replace the current one near downtown.
The campus, which will open later this year, will include an industrial kitchen that will triple meal capacity; a hydroponic garden that will grow a variety of fresh greens for the meals; and a space for intergenerational programming designed to combat loneliness and encourage connections.
“Many people don’t know that hunger is everywhere throughout our community, regardless of what ZIP code you live in,” Stuyvesant says. “We’re grateful to have the opportunity to respond to a need that will only continue to grow.”