When an unprecedented heat wave bore down on Portland, Oregon, US, in June of 2021, Jonna Papaefthimiou, the city’s chief resilience officer, immediately thought of the city’s most vulnerable populations: older people sweltering, often alone, in their homes. She called Suzanne Washington, who runs the local chapter of Meals on Wheels. “The overlap of their demographic and the demographic that faces great risk from heat is almost identical,” Papaefthimiou said. Over the new few days, Washington and a group of staff identified their most vulnerable clients, recruited volunteers and started making calls to check on vulnerable residents and ensure they were prepared for the heat wave. While Meals on Wheels isn’t an emergency response organization in the traditional sense, in recent years as climate disasters increase in frequency and intensity, the organization’s broader mission - to “improve the health and quality of life” of seniors they serve - has taken on new urgency. The daily contact that Meals on Wheels has with clients offers an infrastructure for delivering much more than meals, which is very valuable during climate emergencies.

Read Full Story