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Meals on Wheels Keeps the Huangs Nourished

By Henry Street Settlement

Bai He and Li He Huang in their Lower Manhattan apartment

The Huangs are able to continue to age safely and with dignity in their own homes with the support of Henry Street’s Meals on Wheels program.

For many years, Bai He and Li He Huang walked the streets of Lower Manhattan from their high-rise on Fulton Street overlooking the East River to their beloved senior center, where they ate many of their meals. When they didn’t make that journey, they dined in the cafeteria of their apartment building—a residence for older adults with mobility issues—where they’ve lived for 18 years.

But, when the pandemic struck, both their apartment building and the senior center closed their dining rooms, leaving the Huangs without a regular source of food. Though Mr. Huang can go outside with a walker, his wife is no longer able to leave the apartment. They contacted Henry Street’s Meals on Wheels program in 2021.

At ages 93 and 90, respectively, Mr. and Mrs. Huang have been married for 73 years. Immigrants from the Guangdong province of China who followed their children to New York in 1991, Mr. Huang worked as a deliveryman for a Chinatown bakery while Mrs. Huang was a fabric cutter in a clothing factory nearby. Their four children have fulfilled their parents’ immigrant dreams—with college and grad school educations, and seven children of their own, spread out from the East to the West Coasts.

Henry Street runs the largest Meals on Wheels program in Manhattan, delivering to 1,500 clients daily, from the southern tip of the borough to 59th Street. Five Henry Street teams load food for 875 of the recipients into vans five days a week and often battle daunting traffic until everyone has received their meals for the week. The remaining deliveries are made by our partners, University Settlement, United Jewish Council, and the Chinese-American Planning Council. Although there is no income limit, many recipients live on a fixed income, and those who are able donate to the program.

“The hard work and great care of our food deliverers makes a great deal of difference in the lives of people.” – Cindy Singh, director of Older Adult Services

The Huangs’ apartment is one of 14 in their building that Meals on Wheels deliverer Mei Juan Zhao visits five days a week. With Mei translating from Cantonese, Mr. Huang says he doesn’t like to cook, but he gives the food she brings a big thumbs up. The best part about it, he says, is that the meals are hot and ready to eat. And Mei brings them all the way to his door. The Meals on Wheels menu is supervised by a nutritionist at the New York City Department for the Aging, and the Huangs receive the Asian meal—one of three ethnic meals offered.

Mei Juan Zhao carries a meal delivery bag down the hallway of the Huangs' apartment building

Mei Juan Zhao delivers nutritious meals to the Huangs five days each week.

For 20 years Mr. Huang volunteered at the Chinese-American Planning Council Senior Center, watching out for the older people there to see if they needed any help. Now, he’s grateful that Mei is watching over him and his wife.

Says Cindy Singh, Henry Street’s director of Older Adult Services, “The hard work and great care of our food deliverers like Mei makes a great deal of difference in the lives of people like Bai He and Li He Huang. It means they can continue to age safely and with dignity in their own homes.”

Click here to learn more about Henry Street’s Meals on Wheels program and enroll.

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