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Meal services for older people tweak operations, increase deliveries

Updated: 2020-02-21 07:15:00

( China Daily )

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An employee of Yangjing community-based meal service delivers food for the neighborhood's elderly. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The Yangjing community-based meal-service venue in Shanghai's Pudong district used to host 500 residents for lunch and dinner and deliver 400 meals every day to elderly people living in the vicinity.

But since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the venue has been devoid of patrons.

"The dine-in service has been temporarily closed since mid-January due to the outbreak. We are now focused on providing food delivery service to elderly people who live alone or have difficulty preparing meals themselves," says Lu Xiaofeng, the manager of Shanghai Yuanao Catering Management Co Ltd, the operator of the service venue.

According to Shanghai's civil affairs bureau, guaranteeing a stable supply of food to the city's elderly who face such difficulties is of utmost importance at this point in time.

The city had 1,020 community-based meal-service venues for the elderly as of the end of 2019, 210 of which delivered meals while 810 provided dine-in services.

While the daily average supply of meals across Shanghai was more than 101,000, this has been reduced to about 10,000 since the outbreak.

"The current delivery volume is actually less than before since many family members are staying at home and taking care of the elderly," Lu explains.

"But the decrease in delivery volume does not make our task any less demanding. We have limited staff right now so we can only guarantee food to those who are facing serious difficulties," he adds.

"We were initially faced with a shortage of food but this is no longer a problem. The only difficulty for us now is rationing our protective supplies, such as face masks, disinfectants and protective suits, which are hard to procure at the moment."

A new challenge to food delivery also emerged due to the outbreak.

As part of measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, many communities in Shanghai have significantly limited access to their premises.

As such, residents need to make their way to the main entrance of their compounds to pick up food from delivery workers. This poses a problem for elderly people with mobility issues.

To overcome this, the Yangjing meal service has made special arrangements with the neighborhood committees and property management to grant access to delivery staff, who would place the meals at the doorsteps of the homes of the elderly.

The Zhangjiaxiang elderly canteen in Putuo district has also suspended its dine-in meal service.

Apart from its delivery service, the canteen also allows elderly people to pick up meals.

"The elderly can bring their own lunchboxes or use the disposable lunchboxes prepared by us to take away our safe and high-quality meals," says Shi Minghao, the representative of the Zhangjiaxiang elderly canteen.

Shi points out that the canteen has not changed the prices of its offerings during the epidemic.

In fact, it even provided an additional meat dish for free during the first three days of the Lunar New Year.

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