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Riya Anne Polcastro headshot

Stronger Together: Corporate Partnership Puts the ‘Wheels’ in Meals on Wheels

With inflation and high food costs, corporate partnerships are more important than ever to help sustain social programs that benefit vulnerable populations, such as the senior nutrition and outreach service Meals on Wheels.
meals on wheels volunteer hands meal to a senior

(Image courtesy of Meals on Wheels America)

Meals on Wheels provides vital nutrition and support services for seniors. With inflation and high food costs, corporate partnerships are more important than ever to help sustain social programs that benefit vulnerable populations. For Meals on Wheels America and its network of local senior nutrition programs, working with companies like Subaru of America helps to continue its mission to provide both physical nutrition and social nourishment to seniors.

Making good on the Love Promise year after year

Meals on Wheels America was one of the first nonprofit partners of the Subaru Share the Love Event when it began in 2008. During this year's event, for every new vehicle purchased or leased from November 16, 2023, to January 2, 2024, Subaru and its retailers will donate a minimum of $300 to charity, like Meals on Wheels America.

“Each year during the holiday season, the Subaru Share the Love Event provides our collective mission with millions of dollars in media promotion, elevating our brand during a time of year when people are most generous,” said Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. “Not only does promotion of the event help bring awareness and donations to Meals on Wheels, but Subaru gives directly to the organization as well — to the tune of over $30 million since 2008,” said Liz Edelen, a community commitment manager for the automaker’s philanthropic mission, the Subaru Love Promise.

In addition to Meals on Wheels America, Subaru Share the Love Event national charities include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Make-A-Wish and the National Park Foundation. Subaru is the largest automotive donor to Meals on Wheels America and Make-A-Wish and the largest corporate donor to the ASPCA and the National Park Foundation. Subaru retailers across the U.S. also partner with more than 800 local nonprofits in their communities that are eligible for designated donations.

By the end of this year’s Subaru Share the Love Event, Subaru aims to donate $29 million to organizations in need, putting the company’s total donations since the program’s inception at $285 million.

subaru vehicle for meals on wheels
(Image courtesy of Meals on Wheels America)

Meals on Wheels meets a growing need for U.S. seniors

Those donations are more important than ever for organizations like Meals on Wheels America. Data from the nonprofit shows that 7 out of 10 local programs are facing higher demand for home-delivered meals than before the pandemic.

Meals on Wheels serves 251 million meals to 2.2 million seniors across the U.S. each year. In fact, today one in three Meals on Wheels programs has an average waiting list of three months for vital meals. Roughly 10 million seniors are threatened by or experience hunger, according to Meals on Wheels America. And with 12,000 people turning 60 in America each day, the need will likely continue to increase, making partnerships like the one with Subaru even more important.

Sharing the Love one meal at a time

““Subaru and our retailers have helped deliver more than 4.3 million meals and friendly visits to America’s seniors,” Edelen said. “The Meals on Wheels volunteers really build personal relationships — becoming someone that seniors can talk to, someone who can share a smile during their day, hopefully cheer them up.”

Isolation and loneliness are rampant among seniors who are aging in place. For its part, Meals on Wheels aims to mitigate the loneliness that comes with isolation — serving up not just a hot meal, but also a much-needed human connection. “Volunteers provide a little bit of light and positivity in the person's day,” Edelen added.

Social isolation can also be dangerous in the event of a medical emergency. When someone who is normally ready to receive their meal and chat doesn’t come to the door, volunteers can get in touch with emergency services or family to do a welfare check. 

“Meals on Wheels provides a peace of mind that someone is there, someone is visiting them. If there is an issue, that volunteer can help. They can step up and make sure that seniors are safe,” Edelen said. “I have heard stories of a volunteer going to a senior’s home and they know the person always comes to the door, always loves chatting. And they know that something is wrong when they don’t come to the door that day.”

Subaru also hosts blizzard bag and meal-packing events — where shelf-stable foods are put together to help get seniors through winter storms when deliveries might be interrupted, as well as supplement the regular meals they get from Meals on Wheels. Depending on the time of year, volunteers also write notecards or holiday cards at the meal-packing events in hopes of bringing a smile to seniors’ faces.

“Some of our local Subaru retailers host events like ‘Stuff the Trunk’ where they collect shelf-stable foods for the blizzard bags,” Edelen explained. “Other retailers have an ‘Adopt a Route’ program, and they'll volunteer and deliver meals with Meals on Wheels.”

subaru share the love event with meals on wheels
(Image courtesy of Subaru of America)

A driving force recognized

The Subaru dedication to its partnerships runs deep — so much so that it was awarded the Meals on Wheels America’s Driving Force Award this year. The award recognized the automaker’s financial contributions, as well as the many volunteer hours served by corporate and local employees from across the country.

“In honor of [the Subaru] 50th anniversary, instead of throwing a party for themselves, they showcased their belief in our cause by donating 50 much-needed vehicles to local programs,” Hollander said while presenting the award at the Meals on Wheels Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 21. “And it’s not just their national executives, but their hundreds of retailers nationwide who have become longstanding Meals on Wheels volunteers and supporters, sometimes even sitting on the boards of local programs. This partner has quite literally put the ‘wheels’ in Meals on Wheels and has been instrumental to our impact.”

The award couldn’t be more fitting for the car company. And the people behind the Subaru Love Promise have certainly earned the recognition. “We were honored to receive the Driving Force Award,” Edelen said, calling it a valuable testament to the company’s longstanding partnership with Meals on Wheels America. “It's something that shows the work that we at Subaru and our retailers are doing in communities across the country, so the award meant a lot to us.”

With a growing senior population and rising need to fight hunger and isolation among our nation’s homebound seniors, the continued support Subaru has for Meals on Wheels is integral to the organization’s operation. And it’s not just the automakers' financial assistance that’s making the difference — local retailers and employees are the driving force carrying this impact forward from community to community across the country.

This article series is sponsored by Subaru of America and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team. 

Riya Anne Polcastro headshot

Riya Anne Polcastro is an author, photographer and adventurer based out of Baja California Sur, México. She enjoys writing just about anything, from gritty fiction to business and environmental issues. She is especially interested in how sustainability can be harnessed to encourage economic and environmental equity between the Global South and North. One day she hopes to travel the world with nothing but a backpack and her trusty laptop.

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