BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland has seen a dramatic increase in demand since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The non-profit delivers nutritious meals to homebound seniors.

During a normal year, they’ll serve more than 1.3 million meals. With the current pandemic, they’ve served 500,000 meals in just 2 months.

Executive Director Stephanie Archer-Smith said with many senior centers closed and families limiting interaction with the elderly, they’ve nearly tripled their weekly output. Last week, they served a record 72,000 meals.

“The kitchen gets started at about 4 a.m. and they start cooking and plating the meals,” Archer-Smith said.

She credits her team of staff and volunteers for allowing them to keep up with demand.

“Without them, we couldn’t do it, that’s the first line,” Archer-Smith said. “So they really are the unsung heroes.”

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Markiah Patterson works in the kitchen.

“I come to work to make sure that the job gets done. I come to make sure every partner is served,” she said.

Those receiving these meals now get one bulk delivery a week of seven frozen meals instead of the traditional daily visit.

“We’ve really had to turn our model on our head,” Archer-Smith explained, “both for safety as well as to meet the rapidly increasing demand.”

On top of delivering meals, they conduct wellness calls twice a week to check in with those they serve.

“Knowing that there is somebody out there looking out for you and is making sure you’re okay (can) make all the difference,” Archer-Smith said.

Funding for Meals on Wheels comes from both the federal and local governments. They also receive private donations which they say have really helped them through the past few months.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Sean Streicher