Meals on Wheels of Northeastern Illinois is settling into its new food production facility at 1723 Simpson Street after a kitchen campaign funded a major upgrade.

“We weren’t able to meet the delivery need before our new kitchen. We had no control, but now we can call the shots on the menu,” said Executive Director Deborah Morganfield. “Now we are able to do medically prescribed diets and all of our meals are fresh and made in our kitchen; it is delicious.”

Chefs hard at work at the new Meals on Wheels kitchen. (Photo provided by Meals on Wheels of Northeastern Illinois)

Meals on Wheels serves each client two meals a day, one hot and one cold, in total 4,500 meals a month. While many new menu items have been added, like balsamic reduction glaze and pan-seared chicken, some things haven’t changed: Meatloaf remains a favorite.

“People just love meatloaf; they want comfort food,” Morganfield said.

Meals on Wheels Northeastern Illinois, formerly called Meals at Home, made its first deliveries back in October 1968. Back then the service relied on the kitchen of St. Francis Hospital to create its meals. After years of working with hospitals and local vendors, with little control over its menus, it moved into the Simpson Street facility in October 2019, just months before the pandemic hit.

Food preparation. (Photo provided by Meals on Wheels of Northeastern Illinois)

Morganfield said a goal of $500,000 was set for the kitchen campaign but it managed to raise closer to $600,000, funds that went toward upgrading the facility so it can provide more meals of healthy, fresh food.

“One of the big myths we are constantly up against is that we are only for low-income people. That is absolutely not true,” Morganfield said. “Our food is very good quality and similar to anything people eat in restaurants. We make sure it is food that is attractive to all income levels.”

Deborah Morganfield, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels of Northeastern Illinois

Meals on Wheels can be ordered on a short- or long-term basis, with each meal being diabetic- and cardiac-friendly and low in sodium – and now, the food can even be themed to fit the holiday season.

Morganfield said that before, it was hard to ensure that menu items were vegetarian, vegan or respectful of religion and holidays. For example, this year for the first time subscribers will be receiving rice pudding for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which is this week.

“Being part of a group and having your holiday celebrated through food, it’s special,” she said. “It’s just this feeling of belongingness.”

A cold meal provided by Meals on Wheels. (Photo provided by Meals on Wheels of Northeastern Illinois)

To showcase its food to the community, Meals on Wheels is hosting its first Thanksgiving pie fundraiser.

The freshly baked pies are $20 and come in six flavors: apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan, cherry and the best seller, dark chocolate bourbon pecan.

Pies must be ordered by November 13 and will be available for pickup on November 24 at the Meals on Wheels office and kitchen at 1723 Simpson Street in Evanston, Muller Subaru in Highland Park or the Park City Town Hall.

For more information, visit https://mealsonwheelsnei.org/pie-sale2021/thanksgiving-pie.

Sam Stroozas

Sam Stroozas is a reporter and the social media manager at the Evanston RoundTable. She covers small businesses, social justice and human interest stories. Contact her at sam@evanstonroundtable.com and...