Rowan County’s food non-profits strategize working with inflation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2022

ROWAN COUNTY — For many non-profit food organizations in the county, inflation has posed a number of concerns regarding meals for the community. Fortunately, the affect has not been drastic as of June this year, but programs are keeping cautiously optimistic.

Organizations source their food from various providers in the county, sticking to local produce and cafeterias for their deliveries. Meals on Wheels Rowan in Spencer deliver boxed plates from K&W to senior participants in the area to ensure their nutritional needs aren’t compromised. With inflation, Executive Director Cindy Fink said the program has been able to afford plates for all participants on the list.

Meal prices with K&W went up 70% last August, making every $6 plate at MOWR now $8.50 due to labor and food costs for the cafeteria. 300 meals are budgeted for delivery and 290 participants currently are enrolled to receive them; however, only 260 participants are active presently with 30 on long-hold as they are not home.

“I just want fulfilling and nutritious meals for every body,” said Fink. “I don’t want anybody to be put on a waitlist because there isn’t enough food.”

In addition to prepared meals, the program also offers delivery services for groceries. Unfortunately, the team had to strategize a plan for the increase in grocery stores. What used to be an every week program has been cut down to every other week with total costs for a trip increasing from $40-50 to $70-80.

Additionally, MOWR plans to continue its tote program annually which provides seniors with hurricane totes at the end of June and winter totes in December to make sure participants have food when they cannot have food delivery or transportation. Each bag contains three shelf stable meals; however, with high prices on food, the team at the organization will keep close, hopeful tabs according to Fink.

While these concerns had to be addressed, MOWR volunteers have not withdrawn from their part in the community despite gas prices.

According to Fink, volunteers hold one of the most important roles to continue their program and she along with the organization do not take it for granted.

“I’m so grateful for this community,” she said. “The participants (seniors) feel that. We get letters saying they look forward to our volunteers the most.”

To show the appreciation to these individuals, MOWR often reward their “star” volunteers with donated gas cards to help out with their weekly routes. During rainy days, they’ll gift volunteers with Sam’s Car Wash cards to wash away the mud that coated their vehicle during transport.

The AniMEALS program also ran by MOWR poses concerns for this year as prices for pet food have also gone up. Last August, the organization raised two tons of pet food at the drive with an additional donation from Girl Scouts this March.

Rowan Helping Ministries also has kept close track on funds regarding its Food for Thought and Jeannie’s Kitchen program. A noticeable 20% increase in costs have become a rising concern within the last couple of months. Executive Director Kyna Grubb said RHM’s last food drive received one-third of what it normally expects but it can’t be determined whether that was due to inflation or not.

“We aren’t at pre-pandemic levels of donations but we’re anticipating,” Grubb said. With COVID-19 funding available for communities in the past couple years, individuals were able to donate more to the organization.

There’s a silver lining to the worry. According to Grubb, the organization has recently been receiving abundant responses to it’s “Current Needs” section of its newsletter.

Food non-profits who support Rowan County’s local farmer’s markets also anticipate working around inflation.

Hope Oliphant, executive director with Main Street Mission in China Grove, said the budget for food had increased by $15,000 due to farmer’s market produce prices. Farm equipment requires constant gas so the chain of providing fresh, whole foods to the community in need is becoming a concern.

“Now more than ever in this economic climate, we need to find a way to make sure every one has food,” said Oliphant. She told a story of a community member who would come in to the market and express it was the only place for her to purchase quality fruits and vegetables with what she could afford. Oliphant doesn’t want to take the sliding-scale prices away.

Bread Riot in Salisbury, also a supporter of local farmer’s markets, has not been able to see the effect of inflation with its program as of June, but with summer food distribution coming up, its unsure to the program what to expect.

The organization will take 3-4 boxes of seasonal produce to each summer meal drive site run by the county’s schools. Bread Riot will also be hosting a number of events this summer with details still in the working as of June.

Rowan County individuals can continue to help with these programs as there is always a need. Visit each organization’s website for events, drives and volunteer opportunities.