Irma Castillo of Williamsburg isn’t able to get out of the house much. So, a delivery from Citymeals on Wheels executive director Beth Shapiro is vital to her.
"It’s OK, it's very convenient for me,” said Castillo, who said the food is delicious.
Castillo's meal originated in a kitchen at the nearby RiseBoro Senior Center in Williamsburg, one of 30 partners across the five boroughs that help the organization prepare and deliver weekend, holiday and emergency meals to homebound elderly New Yorkers who are too frail to shop or cook for themselves.
It all started 40 years ago when Citymeals founder Gael Green, a restaurant critic, saw an article in the New York Times about older New Yorkers going four days without food over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend since government-funded meals were not delivered on those days.
"Our founder Gael Green read the paper, called her friend James Beard, and rallied their friends in the restaurant world to raise money for the next holiday,” said Shapiro.
Since then, Citymeals has prepared and delivered 65 million meals. The organization is always important to the most vulnerable city residents, but even more so during the pandemic when even more older New Yorkers could not leave their homes.
"We went from about two million meals a year that we were preparing and delivering. In the 18 months of COVID, we've done five million meals,” said Shapiro.
Five years ago the organization purchased their emergency meal distribution center in the Bronx, which Shapiro says prepared it to handle the tremendous pandemic demand. Citymeals is assisted by more than 20,000 volunteers yearly, not to mention staff like Jessica Colon, head cook at RiseBoro Senior Center.
“It's a good feeling, it's for the seniors, some of them that's all they get, they don't have anyone they wait for our meal to get there, so yeah, it feels good,” said Colon, who has worked for Citymeals for a decade.
To help Citymeals as it starts its next 40 years, head to citymeals.org.