Nashua Nonprofit Spotlight Series: Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County’s widening mission

Nashua Nonprofit Spotlight Series: Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County’s widening mission

Nashua Nonprofit Spotlight Series: Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County’s widening mission

By Elaina Bedio-Granite State News Collaborative 


Editor’s note: This is another installment in the Nashua Nonprofit Spotlight Series highlighting some of the Greater Nashua area’s approximately 365 nonprofit organizations and the meaningful work and crucial services they provide. Each upcoming article in this series features a different Nashua nonprofit. Please send all inquiries to [email protected].

The purpose of this series is to highlight local nonprofits, especially those who would benefit from a bump in visibility. So it might seem curious to select an organization with ubiquitous name recognition like Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County. Most people have at least a nominal idea of the services Meals on Wheels provides — delivering meals to people who, for one reason or another, cannot easily get to a grocery store. But that is merely the tip of the iceberg of the organization’s services.

According to its mission statement, Meals on Wheels’s aim is ’ “to create connection and enrich the lives of older and homebound adults who live independently through nutrition, social engagement, and community services.” Since its establishment in 1977, Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County has been doing just that, and it has evolved to meet the needs of the communities it serves. In addition to nutrition, MoW has focused on tackling the problem of social isolation experienced by the people they serve.

Changing times

One of Meals on Wheels’ biggest catalysts for change was the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, the challenges were mostly operational.

“Before the pandemic … we were just a typical Meals on Wheels program,” said Jon Eriquezzo, president of Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County. “During the pandemic, we were forced to change everything.” Among their new initiatives were offering grab-and-go meals, distributing meals to people in parking lots and creation of the Dine Out Club, a program involving local restaurants.

However, in the months and years that followed, supply chain issues caused costs to soar, said Eriquezzo. “We started getting hit with all of these expenses ... and what that usually does to a Meals on Wheels provider is it makes you kind of implode a little bit. We're going to serve less food. We're going to have a waitlist. We're going to stop serving on Mondays. And, ultimately, some Meals on Wheels providers are forced to close and not do business anymore once expenses get too high.”

So the organization got creative in finding ways to reduce costs without reducing quality of service. The first move was to consolidate some locations. This includes the closing of the Carpenter Center in Manchester and two locations in Merrimack whose operations will be consolidated under one roof – the former Blake’s Restaurant on South Main Street in Manchester.

Another major change is the food itself. MoW had previously utilized a large, national foodservice provider to deliver food to their nutrition centers around the county. Now, they purchase food from Birch Stream Farms in Maine.

“We get milk directly from the dairy. We get bread directly from the bakery, local. The fruits are fresher. Everything we're getting seems to taste better, but also less expensive” said Eriquezzo. In other words, they managed to reduce costs and increase quality by supporting a local farm.

Addressing isolation

What is true of Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County is true of any of the Meals on Wheels chapters across the country. Often, the person delivering meals will be the recipient’s only company that day.

Eriquezzo recounted a day when he took a delivery shift and was met by an elderly woman who had been expecting him.

“I go in. Her hair is done. She's got the big earrings. She's got the pearls. She has a full dress on like ‘I Love Lucy’ or something … red lipstick. She was decked out. She was sitting there with an ashtray overflowing with cigarettes. I realized at that moment she dressed up for me.”

“My first delivery ever was in my neighborhood, " recounted Zach Paone, director of development. “I knocked on the door and saw a face I had never seen before, which is the problem.”

These interactions can be incredibly meaningful to both the person receiving the meal and the one delivering it, but it’s not the only way Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County combats social isolation.

The Dine Out Club is a case in point. The program provides clients with a club card that can be presented at select restaurants for a free meal. Each establishment provides a few options from which they can choose. The opportunity to eat at a restaurant can be a luxury. What’s more, those who utilize the program frequently meet up and eat together regularly, fostering meaningful interactions, and even relationships.

With the purchase of the former Blake’s site, MoW will be able to utilize their own industrial kitchen and offer “community dining” to people 60 and older.

“Our focus when we first open is being able to provide community dining to people of this area and then also have enough equipment in there to prepare food for other community dining sites as well.” Eriquezzo is hopeful that the location will be ready to open early next year.

How you can help

When asked what the organization needs most and how the community can best support Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County, Eriquezzo and Paone said delivery drivers and volunteers are their greatest need.

“What does it take to volunteer?” asked Eriquezzo. “First of all, it doesn't take much to volunteer. It's not a huge time commitment. It's about three hours a week, and what you get out of this is just so huge. Everybody is so happy to see you.”

Donations are also crucial, as renovations at the new site are ongoing and programs are expanding to meet more needs in the community.

“We are going to be pursuing some pretty significant capital expenses in the next couple of years to maintain this wonderful operation we have going here,” said Paone. “So you'll start to hear more about that in the next year, I think, from a capital campaign standpoint. But we are looking to really expand what we're doing.”

You can follow Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County on Facebook. You can also visit their website to learn about volunteer opportunities, making a donation and other ways to support their mission, including registering for the Miles for Meals Run & Walk on Sept. 14 at Mine Falls Park in Nashua.

This article was produced in partnership with Nashua Digital, Nashua Ink Link and is being shared with partners in the Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit

Jon Eriquezzo, left, president of Meals on Wheels of Hillsborough County, and Zach Paone, director of development, at the organization’s soon-to-open newly consolidated headquarters at the site of the former Blake’s Restaurant in Manchester. (Photo by Elaina Bedio)

Connect With Nashua Digital

Reach out to Nashua Digital and join the conversation. Share your stories, thoughts, and inquiries with us. Together, let's strengthen our community through the power of local news.


Social Media