Meals on Wheels to launch a $10 million Des Moines expansion

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A drawing of a proposed Meals on Wheels center in Des Moines.
Conceptual drawing of renovations at 3206 University Ave. in Des Moines that will house a Meals on Wheels program and a restaurant. Drawing courtesy of Slingshot Architecture via WesleyLife Community Services

A Meals on Wheels (MOW) program in Des Moines would move and expand under a $10 million project outlined before the City Council this month.

Why it matters: It helps address food insecurity and social isolation problems among a growing segment of older residents, allowing them to live healthier and longer in their own homes.

  • There’s a high probability the local program will end if fundraising is not successful, former Des Moines City Council member Christine Hensley — a chairperson of the project’s campaign — told city officials.

Catch up fast: WesleyLife Community Services has operated MOW for 15 years from a site in DSM’s Sherman Hill neighborhood that’s run largely by volunteers and donations.

  • Its low- or no-cost meals are delivered each weekday to the homes of around 1,000 military veterans and people who are 60 or older.

Yes, but: The program’s current site is inadequate. A small kitchen and inefficiencies like having no dishwasher or garbage disposal limits its services, said Hensley.

Driving the news: More than $5.6 million has been raised in a $8.3 million campaign launched earlier this year to relocate to Drake University’s former education building at 3206 University Ave.

Details: The new site includes plans for a commercial kitchen, allowing the program to more than triple the number of meals it currently provides.

  • A hydroponic garden planned on the site would be the first of its kind among national MOW programs, producing an estimated 10,000 pounds of produce each year, Hensley said.

The intrigue: The site will also include leased space for a restaurant.

  • The restaurant will have its own kitchen and is not part of the MOW fundraising efforts, Hensley told City Council members.

What’s next: Fundraising continues. Renovations are expected to begin later this year and completed in 2023.


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