By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
Chicken alfredo, cabbage rolls with perogies and sausage, ham and scalloped potatoes with vegetables are a few of the endless combinations that the Magrath Meals on Wheels program is excited to be offering residents when the program officially kicks off on March 3.
“Meals on Wheels is a badly needed program in the community, the challenge is how do we keep it cost effective for people,” stated Jay Mackenzie, owner of Roosters Country Market Place, when he first appeared before the Town of Magrath Council with his idea for the program on Jan. 27.
Mackenzie said that he saw a need for the program because, even though he has delivered groceries to seniors as a public service for the past five-and-a-half years that he has operated his business, many seniors tell him how hard it is to buy groceries for one person, or the amount of food that goes bad before they have a chance to eat it.
For $10 a meal, two-dollars less than the unsubsidized Lethbridge Meals on Wheels program price, an individual gets the choice of soup or salad, one of three entrée choices and a dessert. They also have the opportunity to purchase a second cold entrée to be warmed up the next day for $7.50.
Roosters supplier, Federated Co-operatives Limited offers a “large variety of fully cooked restaurant quality items.” It allows from efficient meal prep, where an infinite number of food combinations can be assembled at Roosters with the items available.
The program is meant to benefit the elderly, those who have just had surgery or new mothers.
It is only available for in town Magrath residents who fit the criteria at this time, but others can find similar individual single serving meals in the deli area of Roosters.
“Meals on Wheels is a program, it is not a take out, pay as you go delivery service,” said Mackenzie in a follow up interview earlier this week.
Individuals interested in the program will have to commit to a minimum of eight meals a month, fill out an order form and pay for those meals a month in advance.
“In order for it to be successful and to keep costs down, we need to order in advance and get a certain level of commitment.”
Meals will be delivered between 5 and 6 p.m., either hot or cold depending on preference. Until the program grows, individuals can choose if they want meals dropped of on Tuesday and/or Thursday evening.
To get the program started, adult volunteers driving their own vehicles around Magrath will deliver the food.
Mackenzie wants to see the Magrath Meals on Wheels program grow so that he can do things differently than other communities. “This is about stepping forward and doing things better to stand out … In the interim we are going to use volunteers in vehicles, but the goal is to get people out of their cars, stop polluting the environment and get youth in our community involved.
“In the book “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” (by Doug Griffiths and Kelly Clemmer), one of the ways is don’t involve youth. Here is a great opportunity to involve the youth.”
Going forward Mackenzie is looking to partner with a community organization to support his application to Community Futures for a Community Impact Grant to purchase an electric scooter and trailer to transport the food, as a business he can not apply on his own.
“While the Town supports the Meals on Wheels program, they felt they weren’t the best group for me to partner with for the electric scooter portion because of liability reasons”.
His thinking is that, not only will it reduce pollution, but the scooter requires no special license or age limit, so highs school students could volunteer their time to do deliveries and earn scholarships.
Mackenzie is also working to secure scholarship funds for the students who step forward to volunteer, ideally students with an interest in agriculture or nursing home care.
“It would be a tremendous thing for the community to not only have the service, but to have a green version of it. We have done everything we can to keep costs low. We are quite proud of the program we put together.”
Those interested in signing up or wanting more information about the Magrath Meals on Wheels program can call Roosters at 403-758-3535. The deadline for March delivery is Friday Feb. 27, but there will be some flexibility as the program begins to take shape.