Edmond Mobile Meals
Cristi Twenter joined the Edmond Mobile Meals team in December 2013. (NonDoc)

Since 1974, Edmond Mobile Meals has carried out one continued mission: Keep the city’s elderly and disabled well fed.

Leading that effort is Cristi Twenter, Edmond Mobile Meals’ executive director. She joined Edmond Mobile Meals in December 2013 and has led the organization through record growth and a pandemic in the last decade.

In this Q&A, Twenter discusses her path to Edmond Mobile Meals, keeping up with the demand of Edmond’s growing senior population and the organization’s slated kitchen expansion.

The following conversation has been edited lightly for clarity and style.

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from and what led you to directing Edmond Mobile Meals?

I grew up in Yukon. I received my bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Central Oklahoma and my MBA at Oklahoma City University. Most of my career has been focused in marketing and advertising, but I always wanted to work in the nonprofit sector because I did not feel as if I was contributing as much as I would like to my community. So, when the opportunity arose to join Edmond Mobile Meals in December 2013, I jumped at the chance. I started as a part-time assistant director and moved into the executive director role in the spring of 2016. I just celebrated my 10-year anniversary at Edmond Mobile Meals this month, and I am so proud of the work we do there!

What has surprised you the most about the nature of the work at Edmond Mobile Meals and within the nonprofit sector in general?

I am constantly awed by the generosity of this community. In a time when so many things divide us, it is inspiring to see there are people who step forward to offer assistance to those in our community who need some help. It brings me hope to see this happening day in and day out in Edmond, whether it is in the form of volunteering to deliver meals, making a financial contribution to help fill the gaps for struggling families or just making a phone call to remind someone that they are seen and loved.

Beyond providing meals to the elderly and disabled, can you speak to the importance of regularly interacting with and checking on the status of meal recipients?

We know that social connection is critical to both mental and physical well-being. Some of the negative consequences of social isolation and loneliness include anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, lower quality of life and increased use of health care services. Homebound seniors are at even higher risk of experiencing these negative impacts. Our volunteers provide meaningful moments of basic human connection to our clients. The daily wellness checks and face-to-face social interactions are as important to the well-being of Edmond’s homebound residents as the nourishing meals we deliver. Our volunteer may be the only person a client sees or engages with during the day. And, for those clients who wish to receive additional social contact, we have a friendly visitor program to help combat isolation and loneliness from the most vulnerable in our community.

According to the recent Edmond housing assessment, Edmond’s senior population is expected to increase more quickly than any other age group over the next five to 10 years. What is Edmond Mobile Meals’ biggest challenge in grappling with the rapidly growing elderly population?

In less than 20 years, the population of Americans over 65 will outnumber those 18 and under for the first time in U.S. history. Seniors have unique needs that our current infrastructure is not equipped to manage in those numbers. So, Edmond Mobile Meals is gearing up to be a part of the solution. We have a strategic growth plan in place, which includes a major program expansion and renovation that will triple our meal preparation capacity so that we can help make sure homebound seniors in Edmond can remain nourished, healthy and living independently as long as possible.

Our biggest challenge is keeping up with demand. We have seen a 20 percent increase in the past year in the number of homebound seniors we serve. It’s estimated that 12,000 more Americans turn 60 every day, so we know that demand will continue to grow rapidly. We have been operating over capacity in our kitchen for about 18 months, and we have now reached a point where if we do not expand our ability to prepare more meals each day, we will be facing a hard decision to implement a waiting list.

Edmond Mobile Meals had a $1.26 million kitchen remodel approved by Edmond City Council earlier this month, and construction is expected to begin early next year. How do you anticipate this kitchen expansion will improve Edmond Mobile Meals’ operations?

We held our first meetings with City Council members and city staff to discuss our need for a kitchen expansion back in January 2020. It has been a long road to get to this point, and we are so grateful to have this partnership with the City of Edmond. The city understands the service we provide is a crucial lifeline for Edmond’s homebound senior and disabled residents. The city is funding 75 percent of the construction. We are funding 25 percent of the construction, plus the full cost of equipment, furnishings and other operational items. In exchange, Edmond Mobile Meals is now the provider of the daily lunch at the Edmond Senior Center, and we will continue to provide those meals indefinitely at no charge to the city. This provides annual cost savings to the city, and we will “repay” the city’s construction costs within 10 to 15 years.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned since joining the Edmond Mobile Meals team?

It takes all of us to take care of the most vulnerable in our community. Our staff, board of directors, donors, grantors, community partners and hundreds of volunteers are united in our passion to make sure Edmond’s seniors do not face hunger, food insecurity and loneliness. As my favorite TV character, Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation, said: “It’s a lesson that I have learned over and over again, but it bears repeating. No one achieves anything alone.” And I am so full of gratitude for the thousands of people who have played a role in helping build this organization to what it is today.

What is the most fulfilling part of the work you do, and what can others do to help the cause?

The most fulfilling part of my work is talking with clients when they have just eaten a meal our Chef Toni has lovingly planned and prepared, and they say it was the “best dish they’ve ever had,” or that it “reminds them of a recipe their mother used to make.”

I love knowing that the meals we send out and the caring volunteers who knock on over 275 doors each day make a very real difference in the lives of Edmond’s homebound residents. And now we can look just a few years down the road to when we are impacting the lives of 1,000 people a day, and THAT is exciting! We will need dozens and dozens more volunteers to help us along the way. If someone is interested in volunteering, please visit our website to complete a volunteer application at