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Coronavirus Update: Citymeals On Wheels Overcoming Obstacles As It Navigates Pandemic To Feed New Yorkers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Hundreds of thousands of New York's elderly rely on outside meals to survive. Now urged to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak, they're faced with new challenges in getting fed.

As CBS2's Charlie Cooper reported Tuesday, Citymeals on Wheels is helping to meet that need despite challenges of its own.

The organization typically delivers about 2 million meals to homebound senior citizens each year. Executive director Beth Shapiro said the need has increased dramatically since the onset of COVID-19.

"About 500,000 of those come from our emergency meal distribution center each year. Since March 4 or so we have done over 250,000 emergency meals to older New Yorkers. We're seeing an increase both in those who need home-delivered meals, and also those who would normally go to a senior center for their lunch," Shapiro said.


The organization adjusted by doubling its emergency meal distribution staff right before stay-at-home orders were put in place.

"We've now begun to limit the number of volunteers up there. We've split our staff into A staff and B staff working a week at a time, so if anything happens we can isolate," Shapiro said.

MORECoronavirus Update: City Harvest Official Says Fight Against Hunger In NYC 'Is Overwhelming' & 'It's Touching Everybody'

Wendee Corsino lends a hand at City Harvest, which feeds children and families in the city. She said she was asked to pause until further notice, since her age bracket is considered high risk.

"For the young folks who are out in the street walking around, just hanging out with their friends, maybe they should volunteer," Corsino said. "If you're healthy and you can come out and keep a mask on, look into doing service in your neighborhood because people need it. They need you."

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

At Citymeals on Wheels, masks and gloves are required for volunteers. At each turn, they're reminded of safe practices.

"We are practicing very safe distancing, talking to people through their doors and making sure both the meal recipients and staff and volunteers are staying healthy and safe," Shapiro said.

While volunteers make it all come together, donations are what make the meals possible. Shapiro said 100% goes to preparation and deliveries that have an immediate impact on those in need.

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