Photo: Angela Macmanus Photo. / Hearst Connecticut Media
RIDGEFIELD — Expecting to cook and deliver 38,000 meals this year, Ridgefield’s Meals on Wheels program plans to expand the kitchen that for decades has been the hub of its efforts to feed town residents who struggle to prepare meals on their own.
“In the last three years, we’ve nearly doubled the number of meals served, which has become a big challenge in our small space,” Meals on Wheels board chairman Dean Miller said.
For 48 years, Meals on Wheels has been “providing nourishment to any Ridgefield resident who cannot prepare their own meals: the elderly, disabled and infirm, even those with short-term needs such as recovery from surgery or illness,” the organization says on its website. “We have no age or income restrictions.”
The number of meals the charity provides has increased steadily, from just under 20,000 in 2017 to more than 24,000 in 2018 to over 30,000 meals in 2019.
Meals on Wheels has five part-time employees, and 140 volunteers who contribute some 10,000 hours a year.
Meals on Wheels charges $6 a day for it’s delivered meals, and says its costs run about $16 a day per client. The organization raises $150,000 a year — approximately 70 percent of its operating budget — through donations.
Though the meals are delivered three times a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings — people may receive lunches and dinners enough to feed them seven days a week.
Meals on Wheels has been doing this from a 1,150-square-foot commercial kitchen on the Ballard Green Housing Authority site behind Ballard Park. Plans are to increase the kitchen by a third, adding 400 square feet of space.
“We’re adding enough space to allow for future growth,” Miller said, “as we believe more Ridgefield residents will choose to age in place and demand for our service from the broader community will continue to expand.”
The last update to the Meals on Wheels’ kitchen took place 17 years ago.
Meals on Wheels “has been the beneficiary of a number of generous donations and bequests in recent years,” the organization’s press release said, allowing it “to complete the expansion without any additional fundraising.”
Construction on the kitchen expansion is expected to begin this month and be completed in December.
“We’ve had meetings with the residents in Ballard Green and are working closely with our landlord, the Ridgefield Housing Authority, to minimize disruption as much as possible during the construction process,” Miller said.
Meals on Wheels is negotiating an agreement for an alternate facility to be used to cook and pack meals when the kitchen is closed for construction, so no disruption to clients’ food deliveries is anticipated.
Hawley Construction of Danbury has been hired to complete the project.
Doyle Coffin Architecture LLC, and attorney Robert Jewell of Donnelly, McNamara & Gustafson, P.C. donated their services to design the project and see it through the town permit process.
Meals on Wheels is a 501(c)(3) organization that has been providing meals to Ridgefielders since 1972.
Information on becoming a client, volunteering or donating to the charity is available on the organization’s website.