Two years delayed and $200,000 more expensive than first expected, Meals on Wheels of Lancaster finally will begin operating in its new, larger and more efficient Columbia Avenue location Oct. 4.
“We’ve long dreamt about this,” said Executive Director Feleen Nancarvis this week, after the nonprofit overcame a host of challenges to arrive at the brink of relocating across the street from Stone Mill Plaza.
Meals on Wheels of Lancaster faced pandemic-prompted construction shutdowns, shortages of construction materials and kitchen equipment, price hikes and the need to replace costly equipment it had hoped to bring from its current site on Manheim Pike.
But the $950,000 investment to buy, renovate and equip the former Mick’s All American Pub at 1411 Columbia Ave. comes with numerous advantages to the organization, which brings its clients a fresh brown-bag lunch and hot supper every weekday, including weekday holidays.
For instance, the new location potentially could prepare enough meals to double or triple the number of clients Meals on Wheels of Lancaster serves, compared to the 400 now served by its 1085 Manheim Pike facility, its headquarters since 1988.
Though ramping up that much would be complicated, it’s possible in part because the new location has more space. The Manheim Pike site has 2,250 square feet, versus 5,600 square feet on Columbia Avenue.
Within the bigger space, Meals on Wheels of Lancaster converted the lower level into areas for vegetable washing and prepping plus meal packing.
On the first floor is the main kitchen, with a stove top, grill, ovens, dishwasher and other equipment, including a welcome addition: a tilt skillet – which will allow Meals on Wheels of Lancaster to serve soups for the first time, and make it easier to serve pasta and rice, adding variety to its menu.
The improved size and equipment also will let the nonprofit make its own meals for clients requiring medically tailored diets, rather than purchase them from Lancaster General Hospital. (All of its meals already are diabetic-friendly and use no added salt.)
Besides that, the new facility allows them to ponder possible expansions of its services, such as the higher weekday output, weekend meal deliveries, frozen meal deliveries, catering, lunchtime seminars and job training, though these steps would require more staff and volunteers and other adjustments.
Meals on Wheels of Lancaster is one of nine independent Meals on Wheels programs operating in the county. It serves central Lancaster County and, through mergers, has begun serving eastern Lancaster County in recent years.
The core area consists of Lancaster city, Lancaster Township, East and West Hempfield townships, plus the Neffsville, Bridgeport and Willow Street areas. Recent additions via merger are Christiana/Gap, New Holland and, since July, Paradise/Intercourse/Strasburg.
Meals on Wheels of Lancaster prepares and delivers meals to those three branches, where volunteers pick up the meals and deliver them to the clients’ doors.
The organization had been providing meals to Paradise Area Meals on Wheels since 2019. The merger means the Lancaster-based nonprofit assumes responsibility for client management, volunteer onboarding and other administrative tasks.
With nine staff supported by 868 volunteers, last year Meals on Wheels of Lancaster prepared and delivered more than 200,000 meals to 996 clients. It serves anyone in its territory who’s unable to reasonably provide meals for themselves, short term or long term, regardless of age or income.
Despite serving meals in the six figures, Meals on Wheels of Lancaster believes there’s more to be done.
“We know there’s a higher need for home-delivered meals in the community, particularly on the east side of the county and in the city,” Nancarvis said. “We are hoping to tackle some of those food gaps that exist that we haven’t been able to serve fully.”
Meals on Wheels of Lancaster was established in 1967. Its ready-to-eat meals typically are delivered to persons with mental or physical handicaps, the elderly living alone and people with limitations during convalescence from injury or illness. For more information, visit www.mealsonwheelsoflancaster.org, call 717-392-4842 or email info@LancasterMOW.org.