Meals on Wheels Hurting from Rising Gas Prices
The number of Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers is waning. This trend is another unfortunate side effect of rising gas prices, and is a nationwide problem for Meals on Wheels programs, which typically operate at the county level. Community Nutrition Network, which runs suburban Cook County's Meals on Wheels, hasn’t yet seen a substantial drop in service, since remaining volunteers are offering to drive extra shifts.
Volunteer drivers can only claim a 14 cents-per-mile charitable mileage tax deduction (.pdf) for their efforts, a rate set by Congress and unaltered since 1998. Math class: it costs about 17 cents to drive a mile, assuming a gallon of unleaded gas costs about $4.34, and assuming an average car gets 26 miles to the gallon in the city.
In related news, this year’s Mayors for Meals program, which took place in March, involved 1,084 U.S. mayors working to deliver meals for their local Meals on Wheels programs. Many Cook County city mayors took part, although Mayor Daley didn’t participate.