One nonprofit is expanding its operations in the Historic Triangle.
As of Feb. 1, Williamsburg Meals on Wheels has officially leased a new kitchen space at the Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex.
“We’ve doubled our numbers from a year ago so we’re delivering 200 meals a day,” said Cathy Upton, executive director for the nonprofit. “So the only way to move forward from that is to have our [own] kitchen.”
In March 2020, Williamsburg Meals on Wheels was using church kitchens, hopping from one church to the next, and when the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing, it became clear the nonprofit’s business model was no longer sustainable.
From the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to December 2020, Williamsburg Meals on Wheels has delivered more than 100,000 meals from bagged lunches to hot meals.
The new WISC space will allow the nonprofit to operate its own kitchen to serve as a prep station for hot and bagged meals.
Like other nonprofits in the area, Williamsburg Meals on Wheels has struggled to keep up with the demand and other challenges like canceled annual fundraisers and having enough volunteers to help deliver the meals.
The nonprofit delivers meals five days a week with 14 routes each and anywhere from one to 14 meal drop-off locations.
The pandemic has changed how the volunteers deliver meals, too.
Upton said most of the nonprofit’s volunteers — typically seniors or those with disabilities — now wear masks and gloves and use the “place and go” method, dropping the meals off on door handles before leaving.
“We’re trying to make sure that our clients get additional food,” Upton added. “But there’s not that human connection our clients were used to having.”
The new kitchen is slated to open in March and the nonprofit already has future plans for the space.
Upton said the nonprofit partnered with Catalyst Kitchens in Seattle, Wash. in February 2020 and plans to open Good Food Provisions, a “social enterprise model” cafe in the summer of 2021.
The new cafe will sell Starbucks coffee, light bakery items, and lunches, with funds going back to the nonprofit.
“We’re just looking forward to the opportunity to continue to meet the demand,” she said. “It’s been a year to remember and a year to forget … we’ve kept up with the demand and we couldn’t ask for any more.”
Editor’s Note: Derek Mason is vice president of sales for Local Daily Media, which owns WYDaily, and is currently a board member for Williamsburg Meals on Wheels.
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