FAIRFIELD — Meals on Wheels of Solano County is not the only Meals on Wheels program hit by slashed and delayed government funding. The problem exists in numerous areas, including Yolo and Napa counties.
While Solano County’s Meals on Wheels program receives 70 percent of its funding from the government, other counties vary. Napa County is funded at 30 percent. Yolo County is 20 percent federally funded, said Christi Skibbins, the executive director of Yolo County’s Elderly Nutrition Program.
But even those funded by the feds on a lower percentage have problems. Skibbins, like Cathy Hall, the executive director of Solano County’s program, asked for local government help to keep the program afloat.
“Some organizations have . . . a little savings squirreled away,” she said. “We asked our Board of Supervisors for some bridge money for sequester.”
The government shutdown earlier this month opened a “whole other can of worms” in more delayed funding, she said. To compound the misery, it lost grants and the competition for remaining grants is high.
Skibbins said fundraising is the only way they can keep it going. They also do direct-mail solicitation, which, she said, they don’t like doing. She said the dire times have called for creativity.
“It’s just one thing on top of another. Everyone is losing money,” she said. “We have to diversify our revenue streams.
“It’s kind of a patchwork of pulling in revenue from as many different funding places as we can think of.”
Drene Johnson, the executive director of Community Action Napa Valley, knows all about creative ways to stay afloat. She was faced with a compounded struggle in addition to slashed and delayed funding.
While Solano County’s Meals program has its own kitchen at its Suisun City facility, Napa County does not. Until June, the local correctional institute prepared the meals for a minimum cost. Johnson said they weren’t given much notice that the jail couldn’t continue. A restaurant picked up the program, but could not do it for the low cost afforded by the jail location. Costs skyrocketed and now Johnson said she is looking at a $120,000 deficit for this year.
“We have to make $120,000 (more) to make this program work,” she said. “We were having a tough enough time without this debt.”
Already they’ve cut off new clients to the home delivery service, leaving between 25 to 30 on a waiting list.
Johnson said they’re “heavy into fundraising,” plus in the long run, there was sort of a blessing in disguise with the loss of the jail. They’re planning to integrate a culinary program run by Community Action Napa Valley with a senior housing complex that asked them to take over the meal program for its residents.
The culinary students will prepare the meals, starting in November, for the housing complex residents. In January, the Meals on Wheels program will be incorporated into the mix.
“I think we can fix this,” Johnson said of the $120,000 deficit.
Citing the combination of sequestration and losing the jail locale, Johnson said, “We had the perfect storm come June, but we’re pulling out of it.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.