Kosher Meals on Wheels continues to serve community in wake of COVID-19

KATHY CHANG/STAFF

MILLTOWN – In the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Kosher Meals on Wheels program “will run as normal as possible for as long as possible,” according to Roni Salkin, executive director of Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County.

Kosher Meals on Wheels (KMOW), which is considered an essential service, is one of the longest running programs of Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Middlesex County. The program celebrated 50 years last year and delivers meals across 14 Middlesex County municipalities.

The program is also the only type of vendor for the county, which currently delivers approximately 550 meals each week to 85 clients.

“We are trying our best to meet the needs of our community during this crisis,” Salkin said, adding they “luckily” have the full cooperation of their caterer, The Orchid Kosher restaurant on Main Street in Metuchen.

KMOW is part of the senior services division, which serves seniors of all religions and faiths. Its mission is to provide support services for seniors who choose to remain in their homes – age in place – rather than move to a facility.

Salkin said a memo was distributed to all volunteers, including KMOW volunteers, regarding general guidelines with respect to the virus.

“We distributed gloves to all volunteers,” she said. “If volunteers are not comfortable congregating while the meals are being dispatched, we will bring the meals they deliver to their car. We have advised volunteers about safe distancing while delivering meals. We are in the process of distributing two shelf-stable meals that do not require refrigeration to each recipient as emergency backup.”

Salkin said the kosher food pantries are open in their Milltown and Monroe offices.

“We will do our best to serve as many people as possible,” she said. “We have asked for donations to purchase additional food as well as non-expired food items to add to our pantries. Food pantry visits are by appointment now. When individuals request food, the bags are brought outside for pickup.”

JFS is offering phone counseling instead of in-person, in-office sessions. Anyone interested should call the main number to set up an appointment.

The JFS Women’s and Career Centers are available via phone and online meetings.

Support groups are on hold for now with hopes to return in April for videoconferencing.

Holocaust survivors are still receiving essential services at home. Group socialization programs have been canceled.

Most services are available through phone and online meetings, or will be in the next couple weeks.

At this time, JFS intends to serve its role as a community crisis center. Its two offices at 32 Ford Ave., Milltown, and 52 Concordia Shopping Center, Monroe, remain open in order to provide crucial services such as counseling, food pantries and more.

For more information or to speak with a counselor, call 732-777-1940 or email office@jfsmiddlesex.org.