For the Record
Nassau County’s safety net for seniors is now powered by two brand-new Meals on Wheels delivery trucks, enabling Nassau County Council on Aging to cover even more ground to feed local residents.
NCCOA’s two new MOW trucks are each equipped to deliver up to 200 hot meals at a time with the built-in warmer, and more than 125 frozen meals, milk and juice in the refrigerated compartment. Manufactured by Ford Motor Company, the 2020 F-250 vehicles were retrofitted by Delivery Concepts, Inc., based in Indiana. The trucks were delivered via Pfeiffer Enterprises, an Indiana-based transport company.
“Watching the two Meals on Wheels delivery trucks roll off the auto transport carrier at our Fernandina Beach Life Center, I couldn’t help but feel immense pride for our expanded ability to feed seniors during this challenging time,” said Janice Ancrum, NCCOA president and CEO. “COVID-19 has truly leveled the ‘playing field’ for seniors. It doesn’t matter where you live in Nassau County, seniors have a common bond – the need for nutritious food.”
With the outset of COVID-19, NCCOA’s MOW program expanded from serving 117 seniors to 685 each week, a 485 percent increase. Seniors are a vulnerable population to the virus, many being not able or afraid to leave their homes. Each delivery includes meals for one week.
Meals are currently prepared by local restaurants – Ciao Italian Eatery, Garden Street Bistro, Pogo’s Kitchen and Stephanie’s Sugar and Spice Café – as well as delivered through GA Foods and Independent Living Systems (ILS).
Last year, NCCOA received a $296,000 appropriation from the State of Florida to purchase MOW delivery trucks, two walk-in freezers and a generator. The generator will provide back-up electricity in the event of any type of disaster (natural or otherwise) to convert the Fernandina Beach Life Center into a disaster response center. Championed by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-District 4) and Rep. Cord Byrd (R-District 11), the 2019 appropriation followed additional state-approved funds for a Nutrition Support Program the previous year to continue progress in our commercial kitchen, named the Allen and Sharon Lennon Kitchen in honor of the Lennon’s generous donation.
“Along with our new delivery trucks, we have established a committee comprised of local experts from the food service industry to create a short- and long-term plan for NCCOA’s Nutrition Support Program,” Ancrum said. “The trucks represent a next step in having our commercial kitchen fully operational in the future. Our ultimate goal is to prepare meals in our own kitchen at 1901 Island Walk Way, supervised by a licensed dietitian, and deliver them to local seniors.”
NCCOA’s MOW program also allows staff and volunteers to check in with the seniors they serve (currently following appropriate social distancing guidelines). For seniors with pets, NCCOA even delivers MOW for Pets to canine and feline companions. NCCOA staff and MOW volunteers will operate the new vehicles in both east and west portions of Nassau County. The first MOW truck-delivered meals arrived at seniors’ homes this summer.
“In addition to the hard work and commitment of our staff and volunteers, the unwavering support from Nassau County is a valued constant – in both challenging and ‘normal’ times,” Ancrum said. “State, county and city government; corporations and organizations; and countless individuals and groups have provided critical support to Nassau County’s senior safety net. Our new MOW trucks represent increased capacity to take care of our seniors and are a beneficial addition to our community.”