On its 50th anniversary, senior support program Meals on Wheels San Francisco has unveiled its new $41 million Sangiacomo Flynn Building — just in time for Thanksgiving.
“Never in our 50-year history has the delivery of nutrition and social support to thousands of low-income, predominately seniors of color been more critical,” said Ashley McCumber, Meals on Wheels San Francisco’s CEO. “Our new kitchen is more than a building just like we, as an organization, are more than a meal.”
For Thanksgiving during this pandemic year, Meals on Wheels’ menu offers turkey, miniature pumpkin pie, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, ham and cranberry sauce. Volunteers going door-to-door, using a no-contact system, are delivering meals in festive boxes to as many as 3,500 clients and their caretakers.
In the new facility, a food distribution center equipped with a 22,500-square-foot kitchen, some 8,000 to 10,000 nutritionally-balanced meals are prepared every day. In the future, Meals on Wheels hopes to provide 30,000 meals daily.
During a recent tour of the building, which is located at 2230 Jerrold Ave in the Bayview, McCumber said the number of people supported by Meals on Wheels has grown by 8 to 10 percent each year for seven years “as boomers come of age.” The original location-turned-headquarters down the street from did not meet food demand or capacity.
The building is named in honor of the Sangiacomo and Flynn families, who donated $11 million to the project. New features include three storage spaces, industrial appliances like Blodgett Combi ovens and no-threshold entry doors to accommodate large equipment and ease the distribution process.
During a virtual ceremony to celebrate the building on Nov. 19, Mayor London Breed expressed gratitude to the donors as well as personal condolences, acknowledging the Feb. 16 death of Russell Flynn, who worked with Meals on Wheels for over 20 years and as board chair led the capital campaign for the new facility.
“Russell was here when we broke ground last year and sadly is no longer with us. This building is named Sangiacomo Flynn Building for a reason. They invested heavily not only in raising money for this building, but personally,” Breed said. “They believe in the mission of Meals on Wheels, and I know that Russ is looking down on us and smiling. He’s so happy that this building is finally available and will serve more people.”
The building’s distinct lime green and teal color scheme strengthens the Meals on Wheels’ brand as well as staff morale. McCumber said that, unlike gray concrete, the teal floors “buck the trend and help lift people up.”
“We wanted this building to have a sense of permanence about it and a sense of monumentality,” said Julie Jackson, principal architect of Jackson Liles Architecture. “From the front, we wanted to reflect the vitality and all of the energy of the organization, so we have this flash of color. We wanted people to notice this building as they went by.”
In addition to serving food to people in their residences, Meals on Wheels provides home assessment and case management, helping clients live healthy, independent lives. Fifty-seven percent of clients are between the ages of 65 and 84, while 18 percent are over 85.
“The population of food-insecure older people is growing, and the pandemic has awakened us to the fact that it takes so little to throw so many into poverty,” McCumber said. “Most of the elderly people we serve live on $1,000 or less a month. We’ll see the real implications of the pandemic hit the street in the second half of 2021 and 2022.”
However, the organization is ready to step up to the plate as readily as its volunteer-operated vehicles ship out food Monday through Friday.
“We are designed for crisis anyway. COVID threw some curveballs that we anticipated early on,” said Jim Oswald, Meals on Wheels’ director of marketing and communications. “If we had to shut down, what would our 4,000-something seniors do?”