Funding shortfall, rising demand tough for ACC program to swallow
Meal program takes a hit
We dont turn anybody down, said John Fowlks. If they need food, they get food.
Fowlks has been helping hungry senior citizens get fed for years as a longtime volunteer for the meals program at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center. But the task is becoming more challenging for Fowlks and the other supporters of Meals on Wheels and the dining room program. Ann Adrian, manager of the LOACC, recently provided some stunning statistics.
There has been an explosion of people needing meals, Adrian said. Over the past 18 months, weve had a rise of (at least) 40 percent in the number of people wanting meals. The new normal is 105 meals a day. The old normal was 70 a day.
Funding has not kept pace with this huge rise.
Adrian said the program is currently running a deficit of $52,000. A big chunk of this will be made up by the upcoming annual contribution of the Lake Oswego Meals Network Advisory Board. Last June, the board made a $35,000 contribution. Adrian praised the board for doing an outstanding job on fundraising. But a deficit remains.
Sadly, the main reason is that many people wanting meals cannot pay for them. Another reason is that people are living longer and desiring to stay in their homes. Adrian noted that research shows people are now staying in their homes three years longer than in the past.
Under the law we cannot charge for the meals, said Fowlks, who has been a food program volunteer since 2006. We have to raise money apart from the ACCs regular program. We try to get $4 per meal, but some people pay zero. They really cant afford to do it. Thats the root of our problem.
Unfortunately, were trending like the rest of the country, Adrian said.
Adrian and Fowlks said Julynne Pang, head chef at the ACC, has done an excellent job of reducing the cost per meal. As Adrian said, Julynne is doing magic. We have an incredibly well-run meals program.
But the ACC is still running a deficit.
We would like to find more organizations who will include us in their programs, Fowlks said. Also, local businesses.
They also need more volunteers like Fowlks, who brought vast experience to his ACC work.
I was a food broker for 39 years, he said. Food is my life. It always has been.
But senior citizens dont live by food alone. An important aspect of the Meals on Wheels program is the social contact they make with food-delivering volunteers like longtime meals program president Andy Harris. Smiles and kind words help digestion.
At the same time, food program volunteers are seeking to increase the number of people who come to the ACC dining hall.
We want to get the message out that there is a dining room here, Fowlks said. We welcome everybody. We would like to build the dining room attendance back up.
Adrian is optimistic that help is on the way.
All we have to do in Lake Oswego is ask and people respond, Adrian said. We are really fortunate. But we need additional diners and donations.
To find out more about the LOACC meals program, call 503-635-3758.