Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Rochelle Phelps and her Recovery Center teams in Fairfield and Bloomfield provided free lunch to those in need. When the pandemic hit, Optimae LifeServices largely switched to a virtual setting. Phelps knew, however, that there would be many customers who would still struggle with food insecurity.
“With that in mind,” Phelps said, “we decided to provide four meals per week.”
After weeks of providing the service, Phelps said that they have it down pat. Phelps explained, “We provide three choices: sandwich, salad or casserole (hot meal). Our customers put in an ‘order’ so that we know how much to cook and we don’t have waste. Then on Fridays, we make touchless deliveries by leaving their groceries at their doorstop and keeping our physical distance. Our staff also use this time for a short check-in with our customers and so that they have a little bit of face-to-face conversation.”
“We contact customers on Mondays to let them know the menu, they let us know what they would like and we generally do a quick check-in about their well-being,” said Tricia Nelson, a Recovery Center staff. “These calls are often short, but they give us a reason to call without being too intrusive.”
Staff and customers at our recovery and resource centers are always there for one another and their communities, as evidenced by their teamwork during last year’s RAGBRAI. Now, they’re coming together through safe and supportive meal delivery.
“For many of our customers,” Phelps added, “this may be the only human interaction they get in a week’s time. It allows us to monitor their mental health as well as make any additional referrals, if necessary.”
Since beginning this service, the team has received positive feedback from their customers.
“Many have shared appreciation for having a prepared meal like the casseroles because they don’t typically cook for themselves,” Nelson said. “These meals are the comfort food they often crave but seldom get.”
“I have another customer, who rarely reaches out for help, express how much it means to simply know someone cares about his well-being,” Nelson added.
However dire times look due to the pandemic, there will always be helpers out there ensuring that their peers are taken care of … and the staff at Optimae LifeServices will always be among them.