Volunteering’s never felt so good to Sue Todd, who’s been biking meals to residents in the downtown west end for the last few years.
“If I didn’t have to work, I’d do this every day,” she says.
Members of the community say hi to her as we ride together on a recent delivery. Seniors are happy to see her when she drops off the hot food. We get sun on our faces and wind in our hair. If only crossing Dufferin were a bit easier.
Now in its 16th year, West Neighbourhood House’s Meals on 2 Wheels is a healthy and inclusive way to build community, says the program’s coordinator, Angie Alves.
Why did you start Meals on 2 Wheels?
We were finding that fewer volunteers for our Meals on Wheels program had access to a vehicle – many used bikes for transportation. It seemed like a natural fit! Volunteers come once a week (either at 10:30 or 11:30 am) and spend about an hour and a half delivering meals.
Do clients know their food is delivered by bicycle? What’s their reaction?
They think it’s a good idea, much quicker.
What are the benefits of delivering by bike instead of by car?
It’s easier to get around our neighbourhood. Delivering meals by bike also engages a new group of volunteers who prefer to get around town on two wheels. A trailer is hitched to the back of a volunteer’s bicycle that can hold 15 meals.
Would you like to do more deliveries by bike?
During fair weather, we’re able to send out two cyclists per day. Other spots are reserved for drivers whose support we need in the fall and winter when our cycling program takes a break.
Montreal and BC also offer bike-delivered meals. What other programs does West Neighbourhood House offer, and do any involve bikes?
We have after-school programs for kids, settlement services for newcomers, drop-ins for street-involved adults and many other services.
Bikes do pop up in other programs from time to time. Our Newcomer Youth Program has participated in biking trips as well as hosting a bike safety workshop. Some West Neighbourhood House staff are active cyclists. As our neighbourhoods change and become more populated, it’s great to see many people choosing cycling as a way of getting around. Infrastructure that supports safe and efficient cycling in the city is terrific.
Meals on 2 Wheels program
- Started in 2000.
- Offers Western, Chinese, South Asian cuisine and frozen meals.
- More than 140 meals delivered daily by volunteers.
- Catchment area Yonge to Roncesvalles and Bloor West to Lake Shore West.
- Days of operation Monday to Saturday.
- Volunteer at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax 416-532-8739.
Tammy Thorne is editor-in-chief of dandyhorse magazine. A version of this story appears at dandyhorsemagazine.com.