Officials with Calgary Meals on Wheels say the charity is struggling right now thanks to rising fuel and delivery costs combined with an increase in food and utility prices.
The agency operates annually on $5 million and does budget for inflation, but even taking that into account, rising costs have forced it to spent $85,000 over budget to keep up.
Co-CEO Stephanie Ralph says rising costs are adding up for them in the same way they are for families throughout the city.
“The more the price is rising in Calgary, the more people who are probably going to be looking for services like ours,” said Ralph. “So essentially, what we need to do is just fundraise more to make it happen.”
The agency prepares 4,000 meals daily in its industrial kitchen and delivers them to 500 clients.
Some of the highest price increases staff say they are seeing is on essential ingredients.
“It’s really impacting bread, milk, fruits, vegetables,” said Ralph. “When we look at our menu, we follow Canada’s Food Guide and we’re trying our best to make the meals dietarily safe for the clients that need that.”
Ralph says right now, Meals on Wheels is managing with the help of generous donors, and there is nowhere to cut costs in the organization to make up for inflation.
“The last thing we ever want to do is pass those costs on to our fee for service clients,” she said. “We want to keep those costs as low as we can, because they’re already having financial challenges.”
The agency relies on volunteer drivers to deliver food to clients.
Christine Hentschel coordinates the drivers from an annual pool of 400 people.
“Oour volunteers do use their own vehicles and we offer a gas rebate program to help with the expense that comes with that,” said Hentschel. “Gas prices – the way they’ve been going lately – definitely impacts some of the abilities of our volunteers to volunteer as much as they may have otherwise.”
The organization also operates a fleet of vans to deliver food and insurance costs are also on the rise. Ralph doesn’t see a time when inflation will ease on all fronts.
“And the thing about gas is that’s the part that seems to be the most unpredictable,” she said. “The end doesn’t seem to be coming as when we’re going to see it stop rising.”
Learn more about Meals on Wheels Calgary by visiting the organization’s website.