Everyone deserves the comfort of warm food and good company.

For nearly 20 years, New Seasons Market has partnered with Meals on Wheels People (MOWP) to ensure that seniors around our community have a warm meal year-round. "From day one at New Seasons Market, we knew giving back to our neighborhoods would be an important part of our company culture. Meals on Wheels People was our very first community partner, and we have been honored to work alongside them for nearly twenty years," says Claudia Knotek, Philanthropy Manager at New Seasons Market.

MOWP serves nutritious meals to anyone over 60-years-old in Multnomah, Washington, and Clark counties. They have twenty dining centers where older adults can pick up a meal and mingle, as well as a team of volunteers who deliver meals to the doors of homebound elderly. With over 5,000 meals to serve each weekday, they rely on more than 500 volunteers a day to prepare and deliver meals to all of their seniors in need.

MOWP isn't just offering a nutritious meal though, they are also there to provide a healthy dose of human contact. Often, this is the only social interaction the senior might receive all day. "Using food as a way to build human connection is something Meals on Wheels People and New Seasons Market have in common," says Knotek.

New Seasons' 5 Days of Kindness campaign forges an extra opportunity to support MOWP by giving customers an easy way to give to homebound seniors in our communities. The campaign takes place in the five days leading up to Thanksgiving, and donating is almost too easy. Many shoppers have to hit New Seasons for Thanksgiving necessities anyway, so once their shopping is done, they can simply donate at the register to support MOWP. It takes just $5.95 to provide a meal for a senior that might go without one. That's nearly the same price as a bottle of sparkling cider or the oat milk latte you'll grab on the way home from the market.

In the first year of the partnership, also known as Meals on Wheels People's Donate Dinner program, four stores raised $2,246. Over the 2018 holiday, 18 New Seasons stores raised $193,427. This year $237,292.58 was raised—over 20% more than last year.

With the long-standing relationship between New Seasons Market and Meals on Wheels People, hosting 5 Days of Kindness is just one of the ways New Seasons supports the organization. New Seasons gives out Lend a Hand hours to their staff members, which are eight paid hours that can be used toward volunteering at a non-profit they are passionate to support. Many of their employees use these hours towards Donate Dinner and approximately 75 staff members are actively involved in meal delivery throughout the year.

New Seasons staff member, Jennifer Gregorich, has been volunteering with MOWP for the past 6 years, "I've met wonderful people who are so kind, and show so much appreciation for the meal I bring them. Many of the seniors I've served love to chat, show me the puzzles they are working on, or give me the update on their doctor visits. Elders in our community need our support, especially when they don't have family around to care for them. Human connection is so important for our wellbeing, and this is what Meals on Wheels is really about," she says. In total, the NSM employees that choose to volunteer at Meals on Wheels People give around 1,000 hours of their time each year.

The volunteer work from New Seasons employees and donations from customers make a big difference. "We are extremely grateful to New Seasons Market for their ongoing support of senior nutrition in our community," says Jeremy James Cochran, Director of Corporate Partnership at MOWP, "staff from all of their locations volunteer to deliver meals to homebound elderly and help out with our special events. Our annual Donate Dinner campaign, which began nearly 20 years ago at New Seasons Market in Southeast Portland, has raised over $2 million over the years to provide nutritious meals for seniors."

Over the past two decades, NSM and MOWP have used their shared mission of feeding the community as a force for good. Kindness doesn't have to be limited to 5 days, but it's a good start. And this partnership is an excellent reminder that something as simple as a smile and a warm meal can go a long way.

New Seasons Market and Meals on Wheels People are partnered year-round to give homebound seniors meals. If you were not able to participate during 5 Days of Kindness consider donating to or volunteering for Meals on Wheels People at mowp.org.