PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The number of children and their families in need of meal assistance has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic and Meals 4 Kids said it needs more volunteers to help ensure the families it supports receive the food they need. 

Meals 4 Kids works with Meals on Wheels People, a local nonprofit that provides meals to people in need.  

Maritza Perez, operations manager of Meals 4 Kids said they currently have about 43 routes they run to deliver meals to families, but only half those routes have regular drivers. 

“We’re just trying to juggle everything and fill in where we’re needed. So yes, we are desperately looking for drivers,” she said. 

To get by, Perez said Meals 4 Kids has been working with Meals on Wheels People’s volunteer coordinators and has attended events to try to recruit volunteers. They’re also reaching out to any organizations that might be interested in volunteering. 

Perez said the nonprofit’s need for volunteers wasn’t always so dire. 

Early on in the pandemic, a lot of people expressed interest in volunteering and they had extra help. As the pandemic dragged on, the number of volunteers tapered off, all while the demand for the meals continued to rise. 

“I feel like our demand hasn’t stopped,” Perez said. “Even just this week, we’ve gotten a handful of new families that are interested in joining our program.” 

Meals 4 Kids serves children and families who live in Portland or Gresham and are experiencing food insecurity, or who have a chronic condition, lack a facility to prepare meals, lack transportation to reach food resources or food pantries, or who experience other barriers to accessing food. 

Families whose income level is 185% or lower than the federal poverty level can request Meals 4 Kids services. 

The program delivers nutritious meals, milk, bread and fresh fruit to the homes of families in need each week. 

The cost of each meal is paid for by the Portland Children’s Levy. 

Anyone interested in driving to deliver the meals can apply online. All applicants will be subject to a background check and anyone selected to help with delivering meals must go through training. 

Perez said if people aren’t interested in volunteering as drivers, there are other ways they can help. Meals on Wheels People also provides friendly chats to seniors to help alleviate social isolation and makes wellness check calls to see homebound seniors. 

Volunteers can also help older adults or people with disabilities live safely in their homes by helping with various projects such as home repairs, yard maintenance and safety improvements.