Higher gas prices pinch Meals on Wheels budget - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Higher gas prices pinch Meals on Wheels budget

If you've driven past a gas station or needed to fill your tank, you may have noticed gas prices are climbing higher.  In Iowa, Gas Buddy reports the price at the pump has gone up an average of seven cents over the last week to $3.38 a gallon.  The pain at the pump is pinching an already tight budget for "Meals on Wheels".

Each week for 20 years, Frank Niedermayer has volunteered his time to deliver food to seniors and the disabled for Horizons Meals on Wheels.

"They're nice people, and I enjoy helping with the older folks.  I'm getting older myself so someday I'll need the help probably," Niedermayer said.

Niedermayer is one of 200 volunteers who deliver 1,000 meals to residents in Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Hiawatha seven days a week.  And all those volunteers don't just give their time.  They also use their own vehicles to drive from house to house.  Most of them, like Niedermayer, offer that service as an in-kind donation.  But…

"Whenever the cost of gas goes up, so does the requests for mileage," said Dianna Young, director of Horizons Meals on Wheels.

Issuing those reimbursements is an extra blow to the program's budget, which has already been hit with a 10 percent cut this year.  Meals On Wheels also ponies up more cash for gas for its handful of vans run by paid delivery drivers.  It's faced with an indirect impact:  food delivery companies charging more to help cover higher fuel costs.  So the program is very concerned about the impact of predicted $4 to $5 a gallon gasoline.

"When it gets to a certain point, it's going to be really difficult for us to even find volunteers because the reimbursement isn't going to cover the costs of their gas and the wear and tear that their vehicle has using it for delivering the meals," Young said.

Frank Niedermayer admits if pump prices hit four bucks a gallon or more, he could be forced to ask for mileage reimbursement.  But for now, he'll consider the joy he gets from making a difference payment enough.

Meals On Wheels is always looking for volunteers willing to donate their time and vehicles to help keep costs down.  Cash donations also help keep the program going.

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