CHR Director Lucy Savitz attends grand opening of Meals on Wheels People’s latest venture: The Diner Vancouver

In addition to the typical diner fare of burgers, salads, and pies, food security and intergenerational dining were on the menu at the grand opening of The Diner Vancouver on February 19, 2019, the latest venture by the local non-profit Meals on Wheels People, which provides meals to homebound seniors in the Portland metropolitan area. The organization calls it a “first of its kind, mission-driven restaurant that features locally sourced ingredients, with all the proceeds benefiting Meals on Wheels People.”

Dea Taylor, above, delivers food to patrons of The Diner Vancouver. Photo credit: Amanda Cowan/The Columbian

The concept is simple: Open for breakfast and lunch, The Diner accepts no tips—only donations—and all proceeds benefit Meals on Wheels People. But there’s another twist: the restaurant also offers free “Diner Club” memberships for those 60 and older, who can order from a special “pay-as-you-can” menu. This serves two purposes: it provides an accessible food option for seniors, and it enables seniors to dine out alongside other community members of all ages, which can prevent social isolation.

In explaining the impetus for the restaurant, Meals on Wheels People CEO Suzanne Washington highlighted two important factors—diversifying the organization’s funding sources and creating sustainability. “At Meals on Wheels People, we pride ourselves on serving more than just a meal,” she explained.  “This entrepreneurial venture creates a sense of community through food by uniting people of all ages.  It’s also an opportunity for us to reinvest in and make a positive impact on the community – and we look forward to bringing our vision to Clark County residents.”

Kaiser Permanente Northwest’s VP of Research and CHR Director Lucy A. Savitz, PhD, MBA, spoke at The Diner’s grand opening in her role as a member of the board of directors for Meals on Wheels People. In her remarks, Lucy talked about social isolation and the importance of creating a space that brings together people from different ages, backgrounds and socio-economic means. Some of Lucy’s work has focused on issues of social isolation and its impact on health.

“We know that social isolation can carry with it a host of associated health problems in seniors,” explained Dr. Savitz.  “Organizations like Meals on Wheels People and innovative solutions like The Diner Vancouver are ways we can help make a difference in the health of our aging population right here at home.”

The restaurant—located at 5303 E. Mill Plain Boulevard in Vancouver, Washington—is open every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, serving breakfast and lunch.

Headline photo (top of page): Lucy Savitz, PhD, MBA (left) speaking with attendees of The Diner Vancouver’s grand opening.