Lack of government funding, rising grocery prices, and rising fuel prices are hitting many helping agencies hard this summer. Meals on Wheels, which delivers hot meals over the lunch hour Monday through Friday to homebound, elderly and disabled individuals, has been especially hard-hit, as it relies on volunteer drivers for deliveries.
Across the U.S., Meals on Wheels programs have seen a 60% drop in volunteers due to higher gas prices. In the Twin Cities, the drop-off is substantially less, but, at 30%, still significant.Across the U.S., 60% of Meals on Wheels programs have seen a drop in volunteers due to higher gas prices. In the Twin Cities, the drop-off is substantially less, but still significant, with 30% of programs reporting a decline in volunteer hours.
“With so many locations in the Twin Cities area, people don’t have to drive as far to help out,” says Metro Meals on Wheels executive director Patrick Rowan. In addition, many of the 8,000+ volunteers in the Twin Cities area, volunteer monthly, rather than weekly, which also may make it easier for Twin Cities volunteers to keep on driving.
Metro Meals on Wheels, an association of 37 local Meals on Wheels programs, distributes at 45 sites around the Twin Cities. Meals on Wheels focuses on helping our clients remain independent and in their homes through nutritious meals, daily safety checks, and friendly interaction where these things are not already present.
Meal pick-ups include senior citizen centers, area school districts, and different food services around the Twin Cities. Volunteers deliver nutritious meals, including choices of kosher meals, dietary supplemented meals, and diabetic options. Every volunteer that makes a delivery is able to connect with each individual even if it’s only for a few extra minutes just to see how things are going with them or how they are enjoying their meals.
“We’re going to be holding our first annual golf tournament in September to hopefully recruit more volunteers, give volunteers chances at getting gas cards, and pursue some of our corporate sponsors to fund gift cards for our volunteers,” said Rowan. “The volunteers are fantastic and it what make Meals on Wheels work successfully.”
“I make weekly deliveries and the balance is that every person I deliver to is so appreciative and grateful when I stop by,” says Mary Haider of White Bear Lake, who has been volunteering for more than a year. “It is even nicer when I get to spend some extra time with them. Some of the people I deliver to also used to deliver for Meals on Wheels. It really means a lot to them that we can help them out, even if it is only once a week.”
Haider, who is retired, got involved with Meals on Wheels when she saw a flier hanging up in her condominium building and decided to spend some of time helping others in need. She contacted the closest Meals on Wheels, signed up, went out on a delivery with another volunteer, and hasn’t stopped since. Most of her deliveries last right around an hour. She delivers to the two apartment buildings, the Washington Square Apartments and the Arbors of White Bear, which are within a few blocks of one another.
“What is really amazing about Meals on Wheels,” she says, “is that anyone can do it. I know someone who works a full-time job downtown [Minneapolis] and makes deliveries on their lunch breaks. That is true dedication and just shows that many people care about this program and want to get involved, when they hear something a story like that.”
Jim Brunzell III (email@example.com) writes on film for the Daily Planet and hosts KFAI’s Movie Talk.