VON Contracts Complete

By September 24, 2020 Fresh Ideas

We’re done with the VON.

            Phew!  When we started making emergency meals (at cost) at the start of COVID isolation, we wanted to keep people home and safe.  The number of people that stepped up to help their neighbour was inspiring, (through volunteering and cash-sponsoring) and we greatly appreciate it.  Us being able to cover most of our costs allowed us to stay afloat.  That’s the best we could ask for out of this crisis in the food industry.  We are so lucky to have you.  This was an opportunity of a lifetime (to extend our help) and our community did amazing things.  We fed about 37 clients (who needed to stay home), and eventually 36 Maggie’s Place clients for three months!  It worked like clockwork, every day.  Six volunteers (for us) and two staff from Maggies place.

            When we were approached by the VON to make meals for them, they had their regular (24 or so) clients.  They (The VON) had the impression they might take on more clients if they received more funding to keep seniors at home.  The hospital was no longer willing to provide them with meals, during COVID. 

We modified our meals to be compatible with seniors’ digestive systems (that’s a whole separate article) and started providing VON Meals.  Within two weeks we had worked out a weekly schedule for the meals.  The VON then received funding from the United Way to keep many more seniors or community at risk at home.  This was around the ‘stay the blazes home’ period.  With this substantial funding provided by the United Way, the VON could then offer cold-meals across the county.  We scrambled and provided a menu of meals that we could assemble cold, provide microwave instructions, and then have delivered across the county. 

Our meal-program went from 37 clients (who needed to stay home) then we added Maggie’s Place (36 meals), and the VON (24 meals), all hot each day.  That’s 97 hot meals by lunch.  Then we advertised meals to be delivered cold across the county.  That was popular and grew to (up to) 225 meals (prepared cold) after the morning’s hot meals.  For another 3 months. Busy.  That keeps the cost down (per meal).  There were some days we made money, but they didn’t exceed the days we lost money. 

Eventually the cold-meal program funding ran-out.  VON had ‘taken on’ our customers who needed to stay the blazes home (37 of them), and then had their regulars.  The meals went from hundreds per day, to a hundred, to their original 24 as they slowly dropped our customers, who had signed up with us.  The ‘normal’ hot meal program (24 people) took as much grocery-ordering time, administration, organizing, and kitchen-time as 200 meals per day, but for only 24 meals.  When our ‘cold-meal’ contract ended, we were asked to continue to provide the regular (24 hot) meals. We asked for VON to find another supplier but that we would continue on until they had another contract in place. We stopped providing meals on September 18th. We have asked but have not heard who the new meal provider is.

There was a huge learning curve associated with helping seniors, low-income families and those with compromised immune systems get healthy food. 

  • It was incredible to watch citizens work so hard to help others.  Truly and sincerely inspiring!  Thank you for letting us be a part of it.
  • It was surprising that there were/ are only 24 people in the VON ‘Meals on Wheels’ program in Cumberland County.  Does that make sense to you?  It does not make sense to us.   
  • It is surprising that people who live far-away (from their elderly parents) aren’t demanding better care for their parents through government assistance of some sort.
  • It is surprising that more people (from far away) weren’t/ aren’t organizing to have meals provided for their elderly parents, even if through a private program.
  • It is a blessing to have so many resources (to help people with food) in the community but it was surprising that they don’t work together in a strategy.
  • It was amazing how many business owners stepped up and donated for the communities’ vulnerable populations. 
  • It was amazing to see how charitable individuals and small groups were (including teachers, a quilting group, an office pool, a Christmas fund…etc) Simply Amazing.

Thank you so much for the experience. We couldn’t have done it (and learned so much) without community support.

Dan Corbett

Author Dan Corbett

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