Meal service faces hurdle
Volunteers and directors of Kelowna Meals on Wheels say it's business as usual despite losing a contract with Interior Health.
They plan to keep delivering meals to about 125 seniors and invalids each week even though IH will cut its ties with the organization on April 1.
"We're disappointed and distressed with the decision IH has taken, but we're going to continue to exist, as we have for 37 years." Marion Bremner of Meals on Wheels said Friday.
Meals on Wheels has an annual budget of $130,000, $35,000 of which was provided by Interior Health. The Kiwanis Club gives $6,000 a year, and the rest is covered by clients, who pay $5 for a hot meal or $6 for a frozen one.
Interior Health has decided to "enhance the co-ordination of meal services in the Central Okanagan." according to a request for proposals (RFP) issued last fall.
The private contractor chosen by IH to take over the home delivery of meals on April 1 already rins the Neighbourhood Meal program. That service, funded by IH, sees meals served to seniors and others who go to either the May Bennett care centre in Rutland or First United Church downtown.
Bremner says Meals on Wheels was never interested in responding to the RFP issued by Interior Health.
"That would have required us to hire cooks and other staff, to expand and change our operation in a huge way," Bremner said.
Meals on Wheels relies on a weekly volunteer force of about 40 people to deliver lunches and dinners, prepared at a Westside restaurant, to seniors in the Central Okanagan.
Now, IH is asking Meals on Wheels to turn over a list of its clients, something the agency is unwilling to do.
"Our view is that these people are our clients, and we're going to continue serving them," Bremner said.
"Some of our volunteershave built up relationships with the people they serve," she said, "Our clients have told us they like to see the same people coming day after day to deliver their meals."
To make up for the loss of the $35,000.oo in IH funding, Bremner said Meals on Wheels will trim its administrative expenses and boost its fundraising.
The non-profit group has also retained the services of a lawyer to advise IH to stop referring to its new home-delivery service as the one 'Formerly known as Meals on Wheels.'
"That's our trademarked name," Bremner said. "And we'll still be using it because we're still in operation."
A call to an IH spokeswoman Friday afternoon was not returned.