Meals on Wheels program starved of funds

A charity that provides free meals to needy seniors in Grand Cayman has run out of money and could have to shut down its operations in East End and Bodden Town for the rest of the year.

Meals on Wheels, which has been operating for 16 years and managed to keep feeding vulnerable elderly people in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, has been laid low by the financial crisis.

Beulah McField, the charity’s founder, said the money has run out and around 80 seniors will go without regular free meals unless government or a private donor steps in. She said she believes it will take about $30,000 to get the charity through to the end of the year.

She said the George Town operation would remain open for now, but there were no more funds available to keep kitchens open in East End and Bodden Town. Services in those districts will cease once supplies run out.

The charity provides daily meals to 41 seniors in Bodden Town and three-times-a-week to 48 seniors in the East End. A spokeswoman for government’s Department of Children and Family Services said, “We are aware of this concern and we are in the process of reviewing the status of our clients who were recipients of this service.”

Ms McField said most of the charity’s clients were struggling financially, disabled or in their 80s and 90s and unable to cook for themselves.

“I am losing sleep because I just don’t know what to do. This is the first time we have ever faced this kind of situation,” she said.

“Even after Hurricane Ivan, we were back up and running in three days. We were cooking in a building with no roof, but we still got meals to our seniors. Right now, I just don’t know what to do because the money had run out.”

At the moment, Meals on Wheels caters to 165 seniors throughout Grand Cayman. The majority of the charity’s staff, including the delivery drivers, are volunteers, and donations go largely toward purchasing food.

It costs around $200,000 to keep the services running year-round. October, November and March are key fundraising times for the charity, and it takes some time for those efforts to start affecting cashflow,

“It is really hard economic times out there for everyone,” Ms McField said. “We’ve seen a tremendous growth in the number of people requiring assistance. The need has gone up, but donations have gone down.”

She said many of the charity’s clients had been referred by the Department of Children and Family Services and had few other options.

“These are the most vulnerable elderly people in our community,” she said. “They are all hard working people who have unfortunately found themselves in this situation in their retirement.”

Some have no family nearby and the only contact they have each day is with Meals on Wheels, she said.

Anyone wishing to donate to Meals on Wheels can contact Ms McField on 916-5967 or 949-3905 or email [email protected]