Rickey Randal has been a grateful recipient of Kosher Meals on Wheels for the past three years.
The 83-year-old uses a walker and is no longer able to cook for herself, so the seven meals delivered to her home near Finch Avenue and Don Mills Road each week – she pops them in the freezer and defrosts them as needed – are tremendously helpful.
“There’s a variety of food… Chicken… roast beef, baked salmon… vegetables, rice and beautiful rice pudding… It’s beautiful,” she said.
“It feeds me dinner every night. What can you want better than that?”
Kosher Meals on Wheels, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is a program of Circle of Care, the not-for-profit provider of in-home health and support services that’s now part of Sinai Health System.
Clients, including people with disabilities and seniors with health or mobility issues that make it difficult to shop or cook, receive one strictly kosher meal per day.
The program is an offshoot of the generic Meals on Wheels delivery service, which started in the United Kingdom in 1943 and was first adopted in Canada in 1963.
Kosher Meals on Wheels launched in 1966, when a group of agencies from the Jewish community – including JF&CS, Baycrest, the National Council for Jewish Women, Hebrew Weston Charitable Services and the United Jewish Welfare Fund – banded together to create the organization’s first advisory committee.
It has grown into a robust program that delivers meals to more than 1,000 clients each year. This past year, it delivered 158,000 meals to seniors across Toronto.
To celebrate the anniversary milestone and honour the program’s many volunteers, Circle of Care hosted an event Nov. 14 at Pride of Israel Synagogue attended by roughly 200 people.
The event included remarks by Gary Newton, president and CEO of Sinai Health System, and the presentation of awards to some of the volunteers.
Carey Lucki, interim president and vice-president of client services at Circle of Care, said that Kosher Meals on Wheels, like all Circle of Care programs, “aim[s] to support independent living,” and many clients are able to continue living independently for longer when meals are regularly delivered to them.
“As our population ages, medical complexity increases and our seniors are becoming increasingly frail. Programs like Kosher Meals on Wheels play an essential role in the health and well-being of seniors in our community,” Lucki added, noting that the personal delivery aspect of the program also helps to reduce the negative effects of social isolation among seniors.
The food that clients receive is prepared at Baycrest for recipients living in the south end of the city and at Sepha Foods for those living further north.
Both facilities have separate meat and dairy kitchens, as well as an on-site mashgiach who supervises all food production.
Lucki stressed that all meals are developed to follow Canada’s Food Guide and Health Canada dietary recommendations.
Over the years, the number of meals sent out to clients has increased substantially, and over the last two years, it has almost doubled.
“We expect growth to continue and are committed to meeting the needs of our clients,” she said.
Lucki emphasized the important role volunteers play in the organization’s functioning.
“Our volunteers engage their children and grandchildren in delivering meals, and in doing so foster a deep, long-lasting commitment to honouring the seniors in our community… As demand continues to grow, new volunteers are urgently needed.”
Kosher Meals on Wheels is funded by the Conference on Jewish Materials Claims against Germany, the Central Local Health Integration Network, the City of Toronto and other funders such as JF&CS.