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[UPDATE] Wheels Falling Off? Gas Crisis Hurting Meals on Wheels

By: Lanetra Bennett; Meals on Wheels Release Email
By: Lanetra Bennett; Meals on Wheels Release Email

[UPDATE] 5-19 -

Alexandria, VA (May 19, 2011) - As the cost of gas skyrockets, all Americans are paying top dollar to drive their vehicles, but it is the homebound seniors who rely on Meals On Wheels for their next meal that are struggling the most. Meals On Wheels programs and their volunteers are desperately working to continue to deliver meals despite the impact of the current gas crisis on their costs and operation. Recent findings show that the situation will only get worse if gas prices continue to rise.

According to a national survey conducted by Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA), many Meals On Wheels programs nationwide are struggling due to the increase in the price of gas. Nearly 80% of those Meals On Wheels programs have lost volunteers. One program reported losing 5 volunteers in a single week, an incidence that is unprecedented in the program's history. It is even more alarming that 25% of those programs reported they have had to reduce the number of meals they serve per week and 30% have started a waiting list of seniors needing meals. 67% believe their program will have to cut back on meal service if the price of gas enters in the range of $4.50 to $5.00. This crisis presents an urgent situation for Meals On Wheels considering that these programs nationwide serve approximately 1 million meals per day.

The cost of gas used by paid staff and volunteers of Meals On Wheels programs to deliver meals to seniors in their local communities each day is enormous. Each day across the United States Meals On Wheels programs and their volunteers drive 1.25 million miles to bring meals to seniors who need them, Currently, the total daily cost of gas used by all Meals On Wheels programs nationally exceeds $247,000. And every one cent increase in the price of gas equals an additional $250,000 a year that is spent on delivering meals to homebound seniors. On an annual basis this translates to millions more dollars spent. For example, gasoline prices for the week of May 9, 2011 were $1.06 higher than for the same week of 2010. This means that costs nationally of delivering services based on this factor alone increased by $26,500,000.

On MOWAA's website, mowaa.org, visitors can learn from an interactive graph how much the cost of gas affects the average American, Meals On Wheels volunteers and Meals On Wheels programs across the country.

Visual Graph: How do gas price increases affect Meals On Wheels Programs and Volunteers?

"For our Meals On Wheels programs, it is a triple whammy because gas prices are up, food prices are up, and the economy is down," said Enid Borden, President and CEO of MOWAA. "As Americans, we have a responsibility to think beyond ourselves and our wallets. The numbers don't lie. Our meal programs and the people they serve need help now. Just how long can we ask these seniors to wait for a life sustaining meal?"

MOWAA is encouraging the public to be part of the solution to ending senior hunger by volunteering for their local Meals On Wheels program or by simply making a donation. The national organization is collecting funds from individuals so that they can provide gas grants to select MOWAA Member programs in the most need.

Click here to view the list below of cities in America and how gas prices are impacting Meals On Wheels programs and volunteers.

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Elder Care Services says it takes at least 145 people a week to deliver for its Meals on Wheels Program.

But, the program is losing many long-time volunteers.

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks just made one woman's day.

She asked, "Could I kiss you on the cheek?"

Marks served her lunch while participating in Elder Care Services' Big Wheels Deliver Meals.

One 90-year-old woman said, "It means a lot because I just don't feel like cooking any more."

Several "local celebrities"--such as members from FSU Women's basketball team, the Tallahassee Police Department, the Leon County Sheriff's Office, and county commission--delivered meals to homebound seniors Wednesday.

But, program administrators say they are losing many of its regular 450 Meals on Wheels volunteers.

Meals on Wheels recipient Mary Bouie said, "The Meals on wheels Program is a blessing to me and I'm sure it is to somebody else. I just thank God for them. I hope it'll hang on, don't stop."

Administrators say high gas prices may stop some.

Randy Guemple has volunteered for ten years.

He drives about 40 miles every Wednesday delivering meals to those in need.

Guemple said, "It's probably a couple of gallons a gas, so that's probably $7 or $8 each week. So, yeah, it's a concern. But, it wouldn't stop me from doing it."

Administrators say the real threat is job-loss.

They say with so many people facing layoffs or taking over multiple duties... many can no longer spare the time to volunteer.

"I'd feel like I was letting them down if I didn't run the route." Said, Guemple.

Residents say Meals on Wheels is more than beef patties and baked beans. Volunteers also provide companionship.

Even I got a thank-you kiss on the cheek.

"Well, I'll kiss the TV camera." Said, the woman who kissed Mayor Marks.

If you would like to volunteer, please call Elder Care at 850-921-5554.


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