Taking a fresh look

June 27th, 2015 1:19 am

First Posted: 9/13/2013

Greater Pittston residents participating in the Meals on Wheels program will likely notice something fresh.

Louise Smith, volunteer coordinator and president of the board of Meals on Wheels of Greater Pittston, said fresh meats and vegetables are being used more and more, adding variety and health benefits to the food delivered to about 60 residents.

“Normally, we would serve canned vegetables and processed meats,” Smith said. “We’d order meats and it would be pre-cooked and we would heat it up.”

But the group’s new chef, Nancy LaNunziata of Exeter, is bringing in fresh chicken, beef, turkey and other meats and enjoys preparing food from scratch.

A sampling of the new menu includes oven roasted turkey; penne pasta with fresh garlic, olive oil, peas, tomatoes, slivered zucchini, squash and basil; turkey stew; stuffed pepper hash over mashed potatoes; baked ranch chicken tenders; and turkey ala king over biscuits.

Also, donations from people’s gardens and the Farmers’ Market across the street are allowing them to serve fresh veggies.

“We’ve taken advantage of the garden supply,” Smith said. “People at home grow a lot of squashes or zucchinis and we’re happy to take extras off their hands.”

Smith touted the health benefits of fresh food.

“It’s so much healthier,” she said. “A lot of our clients are on no-salt or low-salt diets and the fresh food isn’t processed with a lot of salt.”

The group still uses some prepared food such as hot dogs and sausages, but they’ve reduced that significantly.

Smith said morning volunteers and donations are needed.

Some volunteers, many of whom are retired, go on extended vacations and some winter in Florida, so help is needed. Two hours a week is all they ask.

“If we got five people to help out one day a week, we’d be in heaven,” she said.

There are generally three types of volunteers: drivers, runners and kitchen help. The drivers use their own vehicles to transport the runners, who deliver the meals to the homes. Kitchen help prepares the food and packs it for delivery.

Also, Smith said, it takes more work to prepare fresh food. “It’s more than just opening a can and heating it up.”

She said reaction has been positive. “I’ve had quite a few calls. They like our new format.”

The program has three routes: the Duryea route, which includes Avoca, Dupont and Hughestown; the Pittston route, which covers Pittston City to the Plains Township border; and the West Side route, which goes from West Pittston to the airport in Forty Fort.

The organization gets no funding and relies entirely on donations and the $4 fee that is charged for a meal.

The organization was formed in 1969 in the basement of the United Methodist Church on Broad Street in Pittston. The Odd Fellows have provided space in their building at no charge to the charity since 2003.

Anyone wishing to donate funds, time or part of their garden harvest is urged to call Smith at 655-0135.