Local News

Wake Co. Meals on Wheels deals with growing expenses

Posted July 8, 2008 4:13 p.m. EDT
Updated July 8, 2008 9:00 p.m. EDT

— Higher food and gas costs have Wake County Meals on Wheels directors starting a fundraising campaign so the non-profit group can afford to keep clients fed.

Meals on Wheels of Wake County serves nearly 1,500 elderly and disabled persons with food. With more people requesting food, directors have had to put some on a waiting list.

“Serving fewer people’s the last thing we want to do,” Executive Director Alan Winstead said Tuesday.

Food costs are expected to increase by $50,000 this year. The non-profit group purchases food through wholesalers, whose prices have gone up.

“For some of them, it’s the only people that they’ll see all day and for some of them, it’s the only meal that they’ll eat all day,” Winstead said.

Claudia White, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, packs up meals once a week and delivers them in her own car to those in need.

“It’s very important. They wait on that hot, hot meal,” White said.

Hundreds volunteer for Wake County Meals on Wheels, but gas prices have made recruiting new volunteer drivers difficult.

“The new people will come but they don’t stay long because of the gas price,” White said.

White said she also builds friendships on her route. She said it would take a lot higher prices to stop her from hitting her route.

“There’s sometimes we drive and we are on ‘E’ (empty) taking them their meal, but they get their meal,” White said.

Across the country, nearly 60 percent of the estimated 5,000 programs that belong to the Meals on Wheels Association of America have lost volunteers who can't afford gas, said Enid A. Borden, president and CEO of the program that has been providing meals to Americans in need since 1954.

Nearly half the programs have eliminated routes or consolidated meal services. Some 38 percent have switched to delivering frozen rather than hot meals, while about 30 percent are cutting personal visits from five days a week to one.

"We're in a crisis and it's just getting worse and worse," Borden said.