When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Meals on Wheels of Northeastern Illinois was in the midst of building a new kitchen facility, in a former convenience store at 1721 Simpson St. on Evanston’s west side, to expand its capacity.

Executive Director Debi Genthe says the coronavirus has already led to a doubling of the number of elderly and home-bound residents the agency serves — but that still is only a small fraction of the potential demand for the service.

COVID-19 has also led to some major changes in the agency’s approach to providing its service — which combines food and social contact for people who may be severely isolated, even when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic.

In a video interview with Evanston Now, Genthe offered a tour of the new kitchen nearing completion and discussed how Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers have responded to the crisis.

YouTube video

The organization’s virtual gala will be held on its website from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 1.

The guest speaker, Robert Egger, is the founder of DC Central Kitchens, the Campus Kitchen Project, and the L.A. Kitchen. He’ll discuss preparations for an anticipated surge in the number of senior and homebound citizens who will need proper nutrition.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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