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Meal network says thanks to Safeway

by: Vern Uyetake, Volunteer Maggie Deruntz serves Geraldine Huber lunch at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

Local Safeway stores will be honored at a luncheon Friday for their continued support of the Lake Oswego Meal Network, a program that serves nutritious meals to Lake Oswego seniors and disabled people.

The luncheon kicks off at 11:30 a.m. at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center at 505 G Ave., with a presentation by Lake Oswego City Councilor Gay Graham honoring the grocer's contributions.

Through a partnership now in its second year, the Safeway store on A Avenue has donated change collected at cash registers and employee contributions matched by the company to the Lake Oswego Meal Network. The company will make its fourth major financial contribution to the program during the Friday luncheon, adding $5,000 to the $11,737 already donated.

Organizers of the Lake Oswego Meal Network say Safeway's contributions have been a huge help to the program.

The funding allows the meal network to feed Lake Oswego seniors and disabled people, both through meal deliveries to their homes and at the Welcome Break Café in the ACC, a full-service kitchen licensed by the state Health Department.

Run by the city of Lake Oswego, the meal network traditionally comes up short of its funding needs, according to Andy Harris, co-president of the Lake Oswego Meal Network Board.

While servers and drivers all volunteer their time, food costs and a paid kitchen staff put operating costs at $69,000 last year, a figure that represents ongoing costs and is always lower than reimbursements for meals.

Seniors and disabled patrons pay a suggested donation of $4 per meal, but the program turns no one away for an inability to pay. Some costs in the program are reimbursed by government funds. Other money comes from donations - about $17,000 to $20,000 annually - with about 53 percent coming from Safeway last year.

As the program continues to gain strength, Harris credits Safeway and in particular Mark Keepes, district manager for Safeway, with keeping the meal network running during a recent reorganization.

During the reorganization, the city of Lake Oswego took the reins of the meal network, first run by churches and then by a nonprofit corporation. The new leadership shifted the duties of the meal network's board from administering the program to funding the traditional deficits left by county sources. A city-funded program administrator now manages the program day-to-day. In 2005, the growing meal network cooked 14,000 meals for seniors and disabled patrons.

'From my viewpoint what's been so significant is that Safeway gave us time to get back on our feet in terms of the program, by making contributions,' Harris said. 'We had time to get the program going so we could get grants from other organizations … They bought us two years, basically.'

Those who plan to attend the Friday luncheon are asked to make a reservation ahead of time by calling 503-635-3758.