Season's Givings: Program Delivers Hot Meals to Homebound Seniors

As part of our month-long "Season's Givings" series, KPCC's Molly Peterson profiles the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. The program delivers hot lunches to homebound seniors seven days a week. It's the biggest program of its kind in the country.

Molly Peterson: With Season's Givings, I'm Molly Peterson.

Julio, kitchen worker: I think it's about 2,400 trays, and then we do like 600 in bulk for different centers.

Peterson: Today's hot lunches are out on the road to homebound seniors, but it's still rush hour around the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels kitchen. Founder Sister Alice Marie Quinn says 4,200 meals leave here every day, delivered to anyone who asks in a 43 square mile area.

Sister Alice Marie: I kind of feel I don't think I would want to wait a day, or a week, or two weeks to eat. So we do not, we've never had a waiting list.

Peterson: And the meals are customized to health needs and taste preferences.

Sister Alice Marie: If they don't like broccoli, they don't get broccoli. If they don't want peas, they don't have to have peas. If they don't want gravy... So the meal that we send them is something we know they will eat.

Peterson: Sister Alice Marie says St. Vincent has done this seven days a week for 30 years with private funding – the biggest such program in the country. They've got paid staff, but volunteers like Marie Province are the spark.

Marie Province: You know, it's such a basic need that people have, and I'm a person that loves food, so I just really relate to this. (laughs) If I don't get fed, I'm cranky, so I just feel like it really helps them emotionally throughout the whole day.

Peterson: Marie also raises money for Meals on Wheels, but she still comes from San Pedro to run meals out once a week.

Province: This is very hands on. I'm just glad I'm not driving 'cause, you know, it's L.A. Not easy. (laughs)

Peterson: "The wheels" delivering the meals are volunteer drivers who know the way, and runners like Marie who go in to the house or apartment and check on clients. Over a four hour shift, Sister Alice Marie says that's a good workout.

Sister Alice Marie: Many of the ladies we used to have, some of them would say, well I have to go to the gym. And I said honey, if you come work for us, you don't have to go to the gym. We'll save you all that money. You go up and down stairs, you go in and out of houses, in and out of the vans, and then you also feel really good.