Delivery staff ensure that seniors stay fed, even amid epidemic

February 12, 2020 |

Zu Shenglong, a 61-year-old Shanghai resident, has been delivering meals to seniors at the Ganquan Road subdistrict in Putuo District over the past 12 years. She works 365 days per year, regardless of rain, snow or heat.

The coronavirus outbreak hasn't stopped Zu either. With proper protective equipment and precautions, she's on her way.

She carries meals from the Zhangjiaxiang canteen for seniors in the subdistrict to more than 60 seniors' homes every day. When the elderly receive their lunch, the food is still warm.

All of the seniors are above 75 years old and almost all of them live in residential buildings without elevators.

Zu regularly climbs five or six floors to deliver food, and she walks more than 10,000 steps daily.

Her daily routine is leaving home at 9:30am, picking up meals from the canteen around 10am, and finishing delivery at noon.

"The time for meal delivery at each home is fixed, and I never arrive late or early," she told Shanghai Daily. "Many seniors will wait for me at the door when delivery time is approaching, so I must arrive on time."

Zu also knows the dining and living habits of every senior well.

"Some do not eat fish, some don't like chicken, and some can't chew food due to teeth problems. I prepare different foods for each senior based on their eating habits."

"They are like my parents," she said.

Many seniors live alone, and Zu often worries about their safety. Once, she alerted neighborhood committee members when she arrived at a senior's home and no one answered. It turned out that the senior had collapsed inside, but with Zu's efforts she was rushed to the hospital and rescued.

"I can not rest because these seniors need me," she said. "No delivery delay can be tolerated as there are diabetes patients among them who can not go hungry."

The oldest of Zu's delivery clients is 98-year-old Shen Baozhen.

"She is very careful and treats me like her own relative," said Shen. "She's never late and I am grateful for her work."

"Some seniors ask me to take care against the pneumonia outbreak, which makes me very warm," said Zu.

In the Ganquan Road subdistrict, eight meal delivery workers send food to more than 400 seniors every day, according to subdistrict official Shi Minghao.

They worked through the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday as well.

"A total of 46 percent of residents in the subdistrict were seniors aged 60 or above as of the end of last year, and some suffer from physical disabilities," said Shi.

"During the epidemic, it's even more necessary to deliver meals to their homes to prevent their unnecessary visits to wet markets or supermarkets," said Shi.

Meanwhile, at the Yangjing community canteen in the Pudong New Area, about 200 meals are delivered to seniors daily, most of whom live alone, have mobility issues or face financial hardship.

"There are six delivery workers and all meals are delivered within two hours," said Lu Xiaofeng, head of the canteen.

"We require delivery persons to undergo temperature checks before work amid the epidemic," he said.

Gong Guorong, 50, has been delivering meals in the community for five years. He delivers food to about 40 seniors at six residential complexes.

"Each meal includes four dishes, and I rush out of the canteen upon receiving them to ensure that seniors eat hot food," he said.

"During this extraordinary period, meal supplies to seniors can't be stopped," he said.

Gong wears protective glasses, gloves and a mask during delivery and disinfects his delivery e-bike carefully.

"Some seniors ask us to put meals on a chair they place outside their doors to avoid contact amid the epidemic, and I follow their request," he said.

By the end of last year, Shanghai had 1,020 community-based meal service venues, and 210 among them can deliver meals to seniors, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

In total, they serve about 101,000 meals daily.

Since the outbreak, dining at these canteens has been virtually suspended to prevent gatherings, while meal delivery services for seniors are being stepped up, the bureau said.

About 10,000 meals are delivered to seniors in the city daily at present, and 95 percent of these meals are to seniors in the city's downtown, the bureau said.