Facing a big hike this summer in costs from its food provider, , a nonprofit that serves about 400 local homebound clients, is moving quickly to find a new supplier.
But the prospects are dim, said CEO Rosemary Regalbuto.
She told the Santa Monica City Council at the end of May that she had hoped to strike a partnership with the school district or UCLA hospital by the time the increase takes effect July 1, but it "doesn't look like they can make it happen," she said.
Its current provider, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, last raised the price of its meals in 2008 from $3.80 to $4.07 per day for each client. With growing costs of insurance, gas, food and labor, the cost of meals is set to spike 63 percent to $4.50 per day—and, in the future, clients might get less food for their money.
"To me, this is really a tragedy,” Regalbuto told the City Council.
Alice Marie, founder of St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, said the organization is considering replacing its frozen dinners with snacks consisting of a half-sandwich and an apple.
“We’re not going to start that until we see there’s a real need,” Marie said, noting that decision could be several months out.
About 60 percent of Meals on Wheels West’s clients are already unable to fully cover the current cost of dinners, according Regalbuto.
“If people aren’t eating well they’re not staying well,” she said.
Santa Monica resident Allibhai Gulzar immigrated to the United States as a refugee from Uganda. She has depended on Meals for Wheels since suffering a stroke in 2006, and isn't sure how she'll cope with a snack instead of a dinner.
“I’m making very little money on social security and they’re helping me,” Gulzar said of Meals on Wheels.
St. Vincent Meals on Wheels sells to more than 15 organizations.
“We’re doing the best we can with what we have,” Marie said. “You can’t not feed people if they don’t pay. I wouldn’t be a nun if I did.”
The imminent cost increase would amount to $40,000 for Meals on Wheels West. It has already received grants from the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu to the tune of $48,000 and $5,000, respectively. Its annual costs total $775,000.