Lia PicardLia Picard, an Atlanta-based freelance writer and food blogger at The Cardigan Kitchen visited the Atlanta meals on Wheels event and ate lunch with the deserving volunteers.

This past March, Cabot’s Farmers’ Gratitude Grille drove into Atlanta, spreading cheesy cheer to volunteers throughout the city. The red truck, so distinctively Cabot, contains a cozy kitchen equipped with the tools Chef Jimmy Kennedy needs to crank out meals for volunteers – sometimes numbered in the hundreds.

Organizations visited on the Atlanta leg of the Grille’s journey included the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Trees Atlanta and the American Red Cross. The final Atlanta destination was Meals On Wheels Atlanta (MOWA).

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For the uninitiated, MOWA provides nutritious meals to senior citizens in the Metro Atlanta area. Founded in 1965 as Senior Citizen Services, the program was created in response to a growing elderly population and a lack of infrastructure to support it. MOWA has since grown and now delivers 200,000 meals a year to Atlanta’s low-income senior citizens. The meals are tailored as much as possible to accommodate varying diets: no pork, no meat, diabetic – there’s no barrier to a nutritious meal. Beyond meal delivery, MOWA also has senior centers with programs designed to “inspire and empower” with arts, fitness and occupational activities.

While MOWA has a core staff, it heavily relies on the work of dedicated volunteers to lift the organization up. Volunteers assist in all capacities: making the meals and delivering the meals in the senior centers.

The volunteers gathered on a sunny morning for a cheesy Cabot smorgasbord at the MOWA headquarters. One volunteer, Harvey, has been working with MOWA since October. A warm and gentle spirit, Harvey explained that he started volunteering with MOWA because he wants to give back to the community. MOWA opened its doors to him and since then he’s been delivering meals to seniors around Atlanta five days a week.

“Delivering meals, to me, is so fulfilling,” he said, “I’ve developed relationships with (the seniors). They actually look forward to me coming, and I don’t even have to announce myself – some of them are at the door before I get there.” He has a bond with one senior in particular who he calls his “sunshine.” Despite using a walker, she’s at the door before he is and he makes sure to make her laugh.

A similar light shines through the other volunteers. It’s clear when speaking to them how much they value MOWA’s mission, and how dedicated they are to serving it. Another volunteer, Kim, has been supporting MOWA for over two years. The owner of a daycare center, she exuberantly shared that she delivers meals, but also spearheads canned food drives through her organization. She sings to the seniors she delivers to, and hops on Facebook to recruit her friends. “Every month we have new faces around here,” she said.

What did these well-deserving volunteers get to eat for lunch? Chef Jimmy whipped up several batches of Cabot’s Alpine macaroni and cheese. The Vermonter’s take on a Southern staple was delightful with sharp Alpine cheddar, Cabot butter and panko crumbs (for that crunch factor).

Piere and Camilo, chefs from Alpharetta’s Oak Steakhouse, were on hand to make grilled cheese sandwiches and local cafe, Sophie’s Uptown, used Cabot products to make delectable blackberry-chocolate cupcakes.

At the end of the day, the volunteers who work so hard to give to MOWA went home with full bellies and happy hearts.

Click here if you want to learn more about how YOU can get involved and volunteer with meals on wheels.

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