Meals on Wheels volunteer Patty Gertsma hands over a freshly-cooked meal to Hellen Bridden. The non-profit organization is in need of cooks for the program.

Not enough cooks

Meals on Wheels needs kitchen help to continue serving up nutritious meals

They cook. They drive. They deliver.

For more than 40 years, the folks at Meals on Wheels have been feeding those in the Sooke community who are physically unable to do so themselves, due to age or disability.

But given Sooke’s increasing population, the service – which is run by a small army of volunteers – is in need of more cooks in the kitchen to keep those wheels spinning and bellies full.

Alma Anslow, Meals on Wheels president and a volunteer with the organization for more than 10 years, said the operation has become short-staffed, especially since one of the cooks got injured recently.

It doesn’t take much to join.

Anslow said the only qualification you need is to enjoy cooking and cooking for others.

Meals on Wheels runs every first and third Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each month. The service charges a small fee, but at the same time it comes as a relief to many Sooke residents who require ongoing care and support, Anslow noted.

“If you fell, broke both your arms and you couldn’t cook anymore, someone would call us and have us deliver you meals,” she said, adding that the service has been around for more than 45 years.

The whole idea came out of necessity, as the resources available back then to those in need were essentially non-existent.

“That’s the only reason why we’re doing it now, it’s to keep some people in their home and not have them lose all their money by going and living in a old-age home,” Anslow said.

“Sooke’s always been a good community to help each other, and I presume that’s how it started.”

Anslow said to be able to run optimally, Meals on Wheels would need three or four cooks for the two Mondays and the four Fridays. At this point there are only six out of a volunteer base of 50.

“One person buys all the meat, then another person buys all the staples, but we all buy fresh vegetables when we cook,” Anslow said, adding that as a cook, you make up your menu and what you want you put on a calendar, so everyone else will know what to buy.

If it’s something that takes a lot of time, such as pies or desert, she noted that many of the volunteers will cook and prepare the meals at their own home.

“You really don’t have enough time sometimes to make a bunch of pies when you’ve only got three hours to make up a complete meal, vegetables, starch and meat,” she said.

The crew works out of Sooke Community Hall from 9 a.m., then the drivers, who use their own vehicles, set off around 11 a.m. and usually return by 12:30 p.m., depending on how many clients are in the roster that day. Drivers receive a small stipend.

The cooks need to put in 3.5 hours per each shift, which is all volunteer time.

“Think of it if you asked your mom to do a big dinner, she would probably say, ‘I don’t want to do it’, but she’d do it for you anyway. This is the way it is. It’s like cooking for Christmas dinner, but in a less elaborate way,” Anslow said, reminding future volunteers that the whole pleasure of being part in Meals on Wheels is to really enjoy cooking.

For more information, or if you would like to sign up, please call Alma Anslow at: 250-642-2184.