Meals on Wheels is looking to recruit volunteers as the program is expecting to ramp up deliveries in the community.
Meals on Wheels has remained unchanged for the most part since it first launched in Brandon in 1996, said Prairie Oasis executive director Amanda Fast. The program delivers meals to seniors, people living with disabilities, folks who’ve recently returned home from the hospital and others.
“They just need that extra aid in their day to help alleviate the strain of what making a meal is,” Fast said. “Now that they don’t have to deal with that, they can deal with the rest of their day.”
In a typical week, volunteers deliver around 500 meals through the Meals on Wheels program.
Fast added she expects the demand for meals to climb as people struggle to adjust to the rising inflation rate.
Clients receive meals anywhere from one day to seven days a week typically at 4 p.m.
She said the program did see a slight decline in clients during the pandemic, but numbers have slowly been increasing.
One of the biggest challenges the non-profit has faced is the sharp increase in the price of groceries and gas, impacting the bottom line of the program.
Funding for the program, through Prairie Oasis, has been severely impacted during the pandemic — all activities, clubs and programs were suspended at the centre aside from Meals and Wheels, impacting its ability to fundraise due to COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Fast said they receive some funding for the program, but it only covers about 30 per cent of their operations; clubs, programs and fundraisers normally fill the other 70 per cent.
“That was a huge percentage of loss for us,” Fast said. “It came down to, at that time, a lot of staff [at Prairie Oasis] had been laid off for a little while. Now we’re back to pretty much full staff … we’re at about 80 per cent for our usual open right now.”
She added some programs continue to be suspended due to public health regulations.
For Meals on Wheels, many volunteers are recruited through word-of-mouth, especially during Prairie Oasis programming, and the available pool decreased during COVID-19.
For the average volunteer, some were uncomfortable going door-to-door during the global health crisis, and others stepped away from the non-profit when proof of full vaccination became required.
Fast praised the Kiwanis Club of Cochrane for taking the full day each Wednesday to complete all five routes for delivery in the community.
There are a number of ways to volunteer with Meals on Wheels, Fast said.
Meal prep is especially exciting because the dinners delivered to clients are created entirely from scratch.
“Nothing is coming out of a box or bag, it’s made all here,” Fast said.
Volunteers can help prepare meals through a number of activities, be it peeling a bucket of potatoes, making gravy, carving roasts or various chores in the kitchen.
“The more hands, the better,” Fast said.
Volunteers can also sign up to bag meals for clients, a more low-impact activity.
For those taking meals to clients, drivers use their personal vehicle and are provided with a route for delivery and identification showing they come from Prairie Oasis. Volunteers will receive a briefing on who they are delivering meals to and if clients need a little extra care — this can include giving a heads up someone may take longer to get to the door because they are recovering from an injury or are visually impaired.
She added they try and keep people on the same delivery day because it provides ease of mind for volunteers and those receiving meals. Clients appreciate the consistency of seeing the same face on the same day each week.
Those looking to donate to the Meals on Wheels program can provide funds to Prairie Oasis. Tax receipts are available for donations over $20. Funds help in the purchase of food and gas, along with maintaining the equipment used in the kitchen.
Those interested in volunteering can call Prairie Oasis at 204-727-6641 for more information on Meals on Wheels. The biggest need at the organization is drivers, but people can also volunteer in the kitchen preparing meals.
“We never, ever turn away a volunteer. They are always needed,” Fast said.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun