Lawrence Meals on Wheels to suspend specialized diet service until April

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from Feb. 25, 2015, Lawrence Meals on Wheels volunteer Carolyn Landgrebe walks up to a meal recipient's home on her route.

Story updated at 3:41 p.m. Thursday

Lawrence Meals on Wheels will be temporarily suspending its service for those with specialized diets beginning Thursday until April 2 amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the organization’s director announced Wednesday.

“This is something we have never done and truly wish we didn’t have to now,” executive director Kim Culliss said in a news release. “Out of an abundance of caution, care and concern for the safety of our clients, volunteers and staff we believe it is better to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Lawrence Meals on Wheels delivers meals five days a week to the homebound elderly and disabled who have doctor-ordered special diets. Culliss said the nonprofit organization has about 130 clients. Lawrence Meals on Wheels is a separate organization than the Topeka-based Meals on Wheels of Eastern Kansas, which is continuing to deliver meals to other seniors in Douglas County.

Social distancing requirements make it difficult for Lawrence organization to do its daily work without the risk of harming others, Culliss said, and some volunteers cannot deliver because of their own requirements to self-quarantine. Most clients, and many volunteers, are at higher risk for the coronavirus due to their age or health, she said. The organization is currently unable to buy the proper supplies, such as hand sanitizer, to protect everyone. A lack of tests has also made it hard for the organization to ensure that all of its volunteers are healthy and safe to deliver, Culliss said.

Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers will continue making calls to each of their clients for wellness checks, she said.

Many clients have family members that can help support them and deliver groceries, Culliss said, but for those that do not, Meals on Wheels will continue to serve them by doing what they can to get clients what they need. Because the organization provides specialized diets, sack lunches, homemade food and take-out services “aren’t a viable solution long term,” Culliss said in an email to the Journal-World.

“We are still making sure that all of our clients are being fed and have all the resources they need,” Culliss said.

Anyone will questions or concerns can call the Lawrence Meals on Wheels office at 785-830-8844. The organization is also accepting donations, including hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and paper towels. Anyone interested in donating items should call the Lawrence Meals on Wheels office.

Clarification: Lawrence Meals on Wheels on Thursday clarified information that it provided for Wednesday’s story. The Lawrence organization is only stopping its specialized diet meal service, and other area seniors will continue to receive meals through Topeka-based Meals on Wheels of Eastern Kansas. This story has been updated to reflect that information.

More coverage: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Find all coverage of city, county and state responses to the virus at:

What to do if you think you may have COVID-19

Patients who have symptoms — difficulty breathing, cough and fever — should stay home, immediately isolate themselves from others and call their health care providers. Patients should never show up unannounced at a medical office or hospital. Instead, they should call ahead to explain their symptoms and give health care workers the ability to minimize the risk to others.

If patients do not have health care providers, they may call the Lawrence Douglas-County health department’s coronavirus line, 785-856-4343.

For updated information on the outbreak, Kansas residents can email or call 866-534-3463 (866-KDHEINF), which is staffed 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

More information can be found through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website or the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website.


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