Our History




Meals on Wheels for Western New York, Inc. was founded in 1969. On April 9 of that year, the agency served its first meals to 25 residents on the West Side of Buffalo. When its doors opened, the agency, under Executive Director Mary Champlin, was known as the Food and Nutrition Services program (FANS). Interestingly, the name “Meals on Wheels” was preferred at that time, but was being used by a company that drove out to local factories and sold food to employees. Scroll the timeline below to learn more about Meals on Wheels' growth.



Despite having to start “from scratch,” FANS slowly began to expand its service—delivering 34,000 meals in 1971, 56,000 in 1972 and 89,000 in 1973.


The program changed its name to Meals on Wheels of Buffalo & Erie County, Inc. More than 140,000 meals were served.


Executive Director Mary Champlin retired. Meals on Wheels became the official home-delivered meal agency for Erie County. In August, Richard Gehring was selected as new executive director and became the man responsible for overseeing an agency that was set to explode in size.



The program grew by leaps and bounds. The number of service routes nearly tripled (from 61 in 1980 to 171 in 1999). The daily number of recipients being served doubled (from 691 to 1,456) and the annual meals served leapt from 353,000 to 803,000.


The Meals on Wheels Foundation of WNY was formed to offset cutbacks in government funding. The Foundation became crucial in securing private donations and grants.



The program changed its name to Meals on Wheels for Western New York, Inc. The agency served its 20 millionth meal.


Long-time President Richard Gehring retired. Benjamin Gair, who worked at Meals on Wheels for 15 years, became President and CEO.



Meals on Wheels opened a new 24,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art commissary in South Buffalo. This commissary replaced a 1900’s facility that proved to be inadequate during the October 2006 storm.


President and CEO Benjamin Gair departed Meals on Wheels for WNY. He was succeeded by interim President and CEO Paul Nanula, who led the organization while a search for a permanent President and CEO was conducted.



Interim President and CEO Paul Nanula stepped down with the hiring of Tara A. Ellis as President and CEO. Meals on Wheels delivered its 25 millionth meal—making Meals on Wheels for WNY the second largest in the nation, out of more than 5,000 programs!


Meals on Wheels began contracting directly to produce approximately 1,200 meals per day for Erie County’s congregate (“Stay Fit”) dining program, which had previously been contracted for with MOW’s food vendor. This means that in addition to 900,000 meals per year for the traditional, homebound program, Meals on Wheels is producing approximately 275,000 additional meals—easily surpassing the one million meal mark each year. The chart below reflects home-delivered meals only.


Beginning January 1, Meals on Wheels began serving five new towns – Boston, Colden, Concord, Holland and Sardinia – which were previously served by the Southtowns program.


Installed a 450-kw generator system to serve as emergency food production partner for WNY.


Meals on Wheels’ Chief Operations Officer Chris Procknal became President and CEO of the Agency and the Foundation.


Added an “avoiding gluten” diet to assist qualifying clients with a medical need in living their healthiest lives! This takes specialty diets to six: regular (low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium), diabetic, renal, ground, bland and avoiding gluten.


Demographics indicate that the demand for meal services will significantly increase as the elderly population continues to grow. Demand will also grow due to health care reform, which places an emphasis on “aging in place,” which is significantly more cost effective than assisted living. Meals on Wheels is prepared to assist the community in nourishing and enriching the lives of more and more seniors as the need grows.



Our History

From 25 clients per day on the West Side of Buffalo to the second largest Meals on Wheels in the nation. Explore how the agency has grown to meet community need.

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Management and Boards

It takes a lot of effort and expertise to produce and deliver more than a million meals each year. Find out how Meals on Wheels manages the effort with a lean staff and an extensive corps of volunteers.

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State-of-the-Art Commissary

The Meals on Wheels commissary enables safe, efficient large scale production of meals, making it possible to serve traditional clients and to ramp up production for the entire community in the event of an emergency.

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Our Community Center

Meals on Wheels rents out a 2,400 square-foot hall for business meetings, showers, trainings and parties at conservative rates to organizations and individuals.

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