A Vancouver nonprofit that supplies food to people with AIDS has a waiting list of 50 people, a situation the director says keeps her up at night.
Lisa Martella with A Loving Spoonful describes the pressures facing the organization as a “triple blow” from the COVID-19 pandemic, skyrocketing gas prices and rising food costs.
“It’s so heartbreaking for me. We have these jobs because we want to help people, this is our passion, this is what we believe in – community. It’s very discouraging to have those waiting lists and I struggle with that,” she says .
“I’ve been with A Loving Spoonful for 13 years. I’ve never seen this – ever, ever, ever.”
The charity prepares and delivers meals to 1,500 people every week. All those who have access to the service have been referred by doctors, hospitals or caseworkers and remain with the program for at least six months.
“This affects our most vulnerable people,” says Martella.
The government grant is only 20 percent of the budget. The cancellation of in-person fundraising events during the pandemic, coupled with an increase in people accessing the service, puts the organization in a similar position to many charities that rely heavily on donations to support those who rely on it.
“When COVID first happened, we got a lot of additional support from various grants, from individuals, from companies, and two years plus into COVID we’re seeing that kind of dwindle,” she explains.
“Donations are quite low and it is worrying for us as we still haven’t got our events up and running.”
As the organization provides food delivered by volunteers, the recent spike in the cost of gas and groceries has struck particularly hard.
“Our volunteer drivers, they donate 100 percent of their gas, their time. The increased gas prices are impacting their ability to volunteer and give back as much as they used to,” she says.
“We produce our own meals. So when you see this huge increase in food costs, of course that affects how many people were able to serve in the end.”
Delivering thousands of meals every week, the seven employees cannot do it alone. And the people who need these meals don’t have the ability to leave their homes to go to the food bank or queue to access other free or low-cost meal services.
“It’s an incredible achievement that we can deliver in the community,” says Martella.
While Martella has been creative working with suppliers to buy in bulk at a discount and partnering with other organizations that have a budget to pay for the meals, she is concerned about what will happen next.
“I feel like we’re in a very unfamiliar area. We don’t even know if there’s going to be another wave of COVID or not. Gas prices, they don’t seem to be going down. Food prices don’t seem like they’re coming down she says. “It’s really tough.”
Visit their website to learn more about A Loving Spoonful, including how to sign up.