Evanston-based Meals at Home has re-branded to Meals on Wheels Northeastern Illinois to more closely align to other Meals on Wheels organizations. Founded in 1968, Meals on Wheels NEI made the change as part of an operational overhaul that includes an organization-operated kitchen.
Most noticeably, the rebranding brings a new logo and new website (MealsonWheelsNEI.org).
“For 51 years we’ve been the local provider of nourishment and support for our neighbors who are homebound,” said Debi Genthe, executive director of Meals on Wheels NEI. “The rebrand eliminates any confusion as we make dramatic changes in our operations.
“Those operational changes will allow Meals on Wheels NEI to serve a growing population of older adults,” Ms. Genthe added. “With 10,000 Baby Boomers celebrating their 65th birthday every day, the United States is bracing for myriad issues that will come with an exploding mature population. Six days a week our volunteers will continue to bring to life the More than a Meal slogan shared by Meals on Wheels organizations nationwide, bringing engagement and a sense of community to our clients, the neighbors we care for.”
While many of these citizens on the North Shore of Chicago may be comfortable financially and health-wise, many others are not. In 2017, Northwestern University conducted a study of food security in Evanston with results demonstrating the need Meals on Wheels has been battling. There has been and will continue to be a surge in the “hidden hungry.”
“Our plans include a new kitchen,” Ms. Genthe said. “We will be able to serve 100,000 meals each year, versus the 52,000 we can serve today. We will be able to do this with a broader menu range, localized sourcing and an expanded staff.”
The expansion will also call for a need to increase the number of trained volunteers. By the end of 2020, Meals on Wheels NEI expects to run 56 routes each day compared to the 14 routes today.
“Meals on Wheels is a powerhouse movement of neighbors standing up to isolation,” Ms. Genthe says. “With this new kitchen, we are even more effective. With our new branding, we increase awareness of our mission to bring More than a Meal to every one of our clients.”
Meals on Wheels Northeastern Illinois is based in Evanston and was organized as Meals at Home. The first deliveries were made in October 1968 to residents of Evanston and nearby Chicago. The organization’s deliveries eventually expanded north to the Wisconsin border and include Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Kenilworth, North Chicago, Northbrook, Northfield, Skokie, Waukegan, Wilmette, Winnetka, Winthrop Harbor and Zion. In 2002, a Friendly Visit program was added, and in 2012 a grocery shopping program was instituted in which Meals at Home volunteers purchase items such as paper products, breakfast foods and similar items for clients.