Four staff members and dozens of volunteers with Meals on Wheels put out up to 170 meals a day for senior citizens who, through health or financial issues, can’t make themselves a hot dinner.
Meals on Wheels ran into some financial problems of its own about a year and a half ago. But now, staff says, while the organization still runs on slim margins, it’s no longer on the brink of shutting its doors.
In a small, bustling commercial kitchen in a Rotary building in central George Town – one of three kitchens the organization operates in Cayman – volunteers and two staff members cook saltfish and cabbage, rice and plantains and pack the meals into Styrofoam containers. They pile the prepared meals on tables as volunteer drivers show up to deliver the food to older people around George Town and West Bay.
Beulah McField, executive director of Meals on Wheels, explained that bringing meals to seniors does more than give them a hot meal. “They can stay in their home longer and retain independence, and sometimes our visit can be the only contact they get that day.”
Last year, Ms. McField said, Cayman Meals on Wheels made more than 37,000 meals from its kitchens in George Town, Bodden Town and East End. The numbers fluctuate, but she said the staff and volunteers send out an average of 170 meals a day.
Ms. McField said they do all that for $4 a meal, which includes all costs, from buying the ingredients to paying four staff salaries. “We don’t make much, but that has allowed us to grow,” she said.
Talking about growth is a far cry from where the organization was in the fall of 2013. As reported in the Cayman Compass, Meals on Wheels staff were preparing to close the kitchens in Bodden Town and East End because they didn’t have the money to operate them. She put out a call to help raise $30,000 by the end of the year and a number of local businesses stepped up to fill the gap.
“Fundraising is critical,” Ms. McField said.
Meals on Wheels is getting some attention this week. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and George Town MLA Joey Hew joined other government officials to volunteer with the organization. And this weekend, Meals on Wheels is hosting its Orange You Glad gala on Saturday evening at Luca.
Four dollars a meal is the level set by the not-for-profit organization’s board of directors, but the menu is varied. This week it includes saltfish, stewed chicken and Salisbury steak, all with vegetables, soup and other sides.
“We try to mix it up,” said Milda Myrie, one of the two cooks employed by the organization. Ms. Myrie said they always make an alternative dish for people they know won’t like the main selection of the day.
They also make a couple extra portions, Ms. Myrie said, because people will walk in if they haven’t eaten. “They know we’re here and we don’t turn anyone away,” she said.