The Citymeals Blog

Food for Though

Our Year in Review

This past year has been difficult for people across the city who are trying to make ends meet. The end of pandemic-era food programs — like increased SNAP benefits for seniors — along with inflation, rising food costs, and housing insecurity have hit older New Yorkers especially hard. But as the need has increased, so have Citymeals’ efforts to work nimbly and leverage our longstanding strengths to continue to deliver nourishing meals to our elderly neighbors.  

Neighbors like Vicenta. Vicenta was a rebellious, fiercely independent young woman growing up in Spain. As a new immigrant to New York City, Vicenta once raced after her children as a young mother and homemaker. Now at 85 years old, she struggles to navigate her apartment. Home-delivered meals enable her to continue living independently and play an important role as a caregiver to her granddaughter, Jenna. Without her grandmother, Jenna would have no place to go after school while her parents work. Citymeals has allowed Vicenta to retain her lifelong independence and be there for her family. And as we continue to build our operations, Citymeals wants to be there for Vicenta and others like her.  

Volunteers from Standard Industries at the Citymeals Distribution Center in the Bronx

Over the past year, we did a deep dive into logistics at the Citymeals Distribution Center. Our goal was to optimize our capacity and staff know-how to increase the number of meals delivered. This has enabled us to expand our ready-to-eat meal program. Taste-tested and packed at our warehouse, these meals can be stored in the pantry until it’s time for lunch or dinner. This flexibility allows our recipients to eat when it suits them best, rather than having to schedule their days around meal deliveries.  

We couldn’t accomplish any of this without the support of our volunteers. This past year, nearly 14,000 volunteers gave 50,000 hours of their time to Citymeals’ mission. Corporate groups like Standard Industries encourage their employees to volunteer with events like their Annual Impact Day. Community groups like AHRC NYC, an organization that supports people with disabilities, provide opportunities for their members to connect and make a difference in their own neighborhoods.  

And individual volunteers like Ruby often make a long-lasting commitment to Citymeals, volunteering with us for years. As a native New Yorker, she feels it’s important for neighbors to help neighbors. “I could be on the other side of the door one day,” says Ruby, “and I hope somebody would be there to help me too.” In that spirit, we launched our new Social Calls program last fiscal year, which pairs older New Yorkers with volunteers for weekly chats. Because loneliness and isolation can be just as detrimental to our health as lack of access to proper nutrition.  

Chef holding up bags with the Citymeals on Wheels Logo

We know 14 percent of Citymeals recipients, in fact, live on just one meal a day. How can they manage their chronic conditions, when they don’t have adequate nutrition to take with their medications? To fill this critical gap in knowledge and better understand the hardship that hunger poses for the oldest New Yorkers, this past year, Citymeals began our own research study in conjunction with CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, looking at the food needs, programs and resources used by older New Yorkers. The lack of real data on food insecurity among older people has long been a problem.    

With this new data, available later this year, Citymeals will work to identify new ways we can nourish our older neighbors and work concretely to curb hunger in all five boroughs. I hope you will read the 2023 Annual Report in full. Thank you for your continued dedication, generosity, and kindness as we look towards the future, continuing to learn and grow.  

Food For Thought