‘Tis The Season to Nourish Those in Need

As It Celebrates Its 35th Anniversary On Christmas Day, Citymeals on Wheels Brings Holiday Cheer & Nutritious Meals to Homebound Elderly New Yorkers

(Sunday, December 25, 2016) – They say it is far better to give than to receive. And today – on Christmas morning – Beth Shapiro, Executive Director of Citymeals on Wheels, gave some homebound elderly Citymeals on Wheels recipients comfort and cheer as she hand-delivered special Christmas meals of pork tenderloin, pigeon pea rice, and a vegetable blend. This delivery was significant because Christmas Day marks Citymeals’ 35th anniversary.

All across the city, Citymeals funded 18,133 Christmas meals, hand-delivered by an army of 500 volunteers to the city’s homebound elderly, many of whom have outlived their families and friends. Citymeals also funded the preparation of 3,170 additional Christmas meals that were served to older New Yorkers in senior centers throughout the city. Since the organization was founded, Citymeals on Wheels has delivered more than 54 million meals.

Many of the homebound elderly Citymeals serves are all alone on holidays. The person who delivers their meals is often the only human contact they have.

Shapiro noted, “Today, millions of New Yorkers gather with family to share food, laughs and Christmas traditions. It’s difficult to think that so many of our isolated meal recipients spend Christmas with just their memories. Today’s knock on the door, smiling volunteer and Christmas meal give our frail and vulnerable neighbors a new holiday memory. It’s also a reminder that in this big bustling city, they have not been forgotten. I’d like to thank all of our caring and compassionate volunteers who are out citywide this morning proving just how alive the Christmas spirit is here in New York.”

Days before Thanksgiving in 1981, New York Magazine restaurant critic Gael Greene read a news article reporting that homebound elderly New Yorkers were not receiving meal deliveries on weekends and holidays. Outraged that in a city of such plenty, thousands of seniors would go days without food, she began calling her friends in the food world, including renowned chef James Beard. Together, they raised $35,000. Contacting the Department for the Aging, the city agency responsible for meal deliveries, she offered the money on one condition: 100% of the funding would go to meals. The agency turned those dollars into Christmas meals for 6,000 older New Yorkers. Citymeals was born.

“We are so proud to be out citywide this morning 35 years to the day since Citymeals was founded,” continued Shapiro.  “At a time when the elderly population and, in turn, the need for our services is growing, it is an especially poignant anniversary. Gael Greene says it best: “Food and friendship should never be a luxury.”

Citymeals recipients are among the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

  • All Citymeals on Wheels recipients are chronically disabled by conditions such as vision loss, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.
  • More than 60 percent of Citymeals recipients are over 80 years old;
  • 23 percent are over 90;
  • More than 200 have lived at least a century.
  • Nearly all need assistance walking.
  • It is estimated that 66 percent use a cane;
  • 39 percent use a walker;
  • 16 percent use a wheelchair.
  • Citymeals recipients are also isolated: 57 percent live alone;
  • 40 percent rarely or never leave their homes;
  • And 8 percent have no one with whom they can talk.
  • Many are also at risk for malnutrition.


About Citymeals on Wheels: Citymeals on Wheels (citymeals.org) provides a continuous lifeline of nourishing meals and vital companionship to New York City’s homebound elderly. Working in partnership with community-based organizations and senior centers, Citymeals prepares and delivers over 2 million weekend, holiday and emergency meals for more than 18,000 of our frail aged neighbors each year. Last year, over 15,000 individuals volunteered nearly 72,000 hours of their time.

Since its founding in 1981, Citymeals has relied on the generosity of its Board of Directors, the City of New York, sponsors and other designated gifts to cover administrative costs. This ensures that 100% of all public donations will be used entirely for the preparation and delivery of meals.