While families across the country will be enjoying a meal with their loved ones this holiday season, many truck drivers will be at work on the road. Meals for 18 Wheels wants to help drivers who have to work over the holidays to find a warm holiday meal.
Meals for 18 Wheels originated just before Thanksgiving in 2013. Last year, the group helped 31 drivers get a warm Thanksgiving dinner. By Christmas, Meals for 18 Wheels was able to help 289 drivers get warm meals, including meals for 5 pets, 6 pizzas and 40 bags of cookies.
This year, Meals for 18 Wheels is doing a 4-Days of Sharing event during the holiday season. During the holidays, EVERY driver is encouraged to participate.
While the holidays tend to be the group’s busiest time, Meals for 18 Wheels operates 365 days a year to help drivers who are in need of a warm meal.
Meals for 18 Wheels administrator Crystal Schoonmaker told CDLLife that each week, the group helps at least three drivers in need.
Here’s how it works: a driver contacts Meals for 18 Wheels and let’s them know he or she would like or needs a hot meal. Meals for 18 Wheels gets to work to find a volunteer in the driver’s area so that the driver and the volunteer can coordinate a time and place to meet.
Once a driver and volunteer have been matched, and permission has been granted to release the driver and volunteer’s phone numbers, the driver and volunteer are given the other’s numbers and they work out the details on meeting up.
Drivers Needing Help
Meals for 18 Wheels vets each driver. Drivers who reach out to Meals for 18 Wheels for help must fill out a questionnaire. The information is confidential, but the driver must provide his or her carrier information, truck number, phone number, etc.
While the group works very hard to find volunteers, they cannot guarantee a volunteer can be found in a driver’s area.
“Unfortunately we have to limit how many times we help a driver. While we’re here to help in unforseen circumstances, we also can not be relied on for weekly or daily help,” Schoonmaker noted.
Volunteers must also fill out a survey. Schoonmaker and the group’s team of administrators, Sarah Bridwell,Kevin Stebbins,Rose Gleason and Delphine Hunt, advise volunteers to arrange to meet inside a truck stop, don’t go to a driver’s truck, don’t meet in a private residence or a non-public place.
“For the safety of ALL involved. We do not ask of a volunteer to take a driver to their house. We understand some will and that is your right and decision. We encourage you to meet with said driver inside the facility they are at, in front of individuals. We do not encourage you to knock on truck doors. However again, that is your decision to make. We also have a post about food safety tips. Please take a moment to read the Serv Safe tips. We have faith in the professionalism of ‘our’ truck drivers to act in a courteous and safe manner. We also have faith in ‘our’ volunteers to do the same. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t go or don’t eat the meal. We’re not saying there will be any problems, but we have to unfortunately post this, as there are some who like to bring harm to others,” the group states.
“If you want to help, we ask that you help with food; we don’t want you to hand out money. Just share a meal,” Schoonmaker advises.
If you want to volunteer to share a meal, follow this link, fill out the survey and keep an eye on their page for alerts in your area.
In addition to providing meals, the group also helps drivers find other resources. If a volunteer can’t be found, Shoonmaker says Meals for 18 Wheels helps drivers find local soup kitchens, food pantries and other social services in their area.
“There are a lot of new drivers, who haven’t been on the road but maybe two weeks, two months, who don’t even have any extra money because the companies aren’t paying them enough and who don’t have any food in their truck. They don’t plan on being stuck somewhere because of bad weather or on a layover.”
Schoonmaker says her group recommends every driver, including new drivers, keep enough non-perishable, canned food on hand for emergencies. She recommends, canned tuna, canned chicken, Spaghetti-O’s, powdered milk, bottled water, etc. “Things that can be stored in either in a cooler or a refrigerator and that don’t have to be cooked.” Schoonmaker recommends always drivers always have 3 days worth of food on hand.
“We’re always here to help, but we also want to educate drivers on what to keep on hand, just in case,” she said.