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Meals on Wheels gets started on new kitchen

$150,000 donation enables charity to enlarge facility

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Meals on Wheels Greater San Diego will soon providing more meals to seniors, as construction started Tuesday on its new commercial kitchen.

Thanks to a $150,000 donation from the Gary & Mary West Foundation, the nonprofit Meals on Wheels Meal Center kitchen – which is located in a small warehouse off India Street in San Diego – will more than triple in size from 480 square feet to approximately 1,700 square feet.

The new kitchen will have amenities of a commercial-sized kitchen including ovens, stoves and dishwashers.

The new kitchen is expected to be finished in 12 weeks.

The construction and design team includes Tegrus Construction, Holasek Architect, Food Service Design Group and HVAC Design Group.

Meals on Wheels’ goal is to create most of its own soups, sauces, baked goods and protein to create healthier meals that are lower in fat and sodium.

Meals on Wheels serves people who are 60 and older, homebound, and don’t have anyone to care for them.

Six days out of the week, six vans distribute approximately 961 meals to 19 drop-off sites where 135-150 volunteers per day hand out meals.

Debbie Case, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels Greater San Diego, said a new kitchen is needed right now to keep up with demand and changing demographics.

“We are getting more and more baby boomers,” Case said. “They have different needs: foods with low sodium, soups, more vegetarian alternatives.”

She also said a new commercial restaurant was needed to accommodate the growing number of Hispanic seniors. Meals on Wheels is in the process of creating Latin-based cuisine.

“It’s expected one in five people will be over the age of 65 years by 2020,” Case said. “We have to be prepared.”

The average age of people served is 82, with 40 percent over the age of 85. Sixty-one percent are female, while 39 percent are male.

The $150,000 grant is being used to pay for the construction of the new kitchen and remodeling materials like wiring and piping.

Case said Meals on Wheels still needs monetary donations to buy equipment that range from a $6,000 kettle for soup to a $17,000 blast chiller/freezer.

“People can contact me if they want to make a donation,” Case said.

Funds for a commercial dishwasher were awarded from the county of San Diego’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program.

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