'I've never seen this:' Vancouver charity seeing unprecedented waitlist amid sky-high gas, food prices

A Loving Spoonful has been delivering meals to people with AIDS since 1989. The pandemic, coupled with high gas and food prices is putting unprecedented pressure on the organization.

A Vancouver non-profit that delivers food to people with AIDS has a 50-person waitlist, a situation the executive director says is keeping her up at night.

Lisa Martella with A Loving Spoonful describes the pressures facing the organization as a "triple whammy" of the COVID-19 pandemic, sky-high gas prices and the surging cost of food.

"It's so heart-wrenching to me. We're in these jobs because we want to help people, this is our passion, this is what we believe in -- community. To have those waitlists it's very daunting and I struggle with that," she says.

"I've been with A Loving Spoonful 13 years, I've never seen this -- ever, ever, ever."

The charity prepares and delivers meals to 1,500 people each week. All of those who access the service have been referred by doctors, hospitals or caseworkers and remain with the program for at least six months.

"This is affecting our most vulnerable people," Martella says.

Government funding amounts to just 20 per cent of the budget. The cancellation of in-person fundraising events during the pandemic combined with an increase in people accessing the service put the organization in a similar position to many charities that rely heavily on donations to be able to support those who rely on them.

"When COVID first happened, we had a lot of extra support coming in from various grants, from individuals, from companies, and two years plus into COVID we're seeing that sort of dwindling away," she explains.

"Donations are quite low and it is concerning for us because we still don't have our events back in gear."

Because the organization provides food delivered by volunteers, the recent spike in the cost of gas and groceries has hit particularly hard.

"Our volunteer drivers, they 100 per cent donate their gas, their time. Increased gas prices are impacting their ability to be able to volunteer and give back as much as they used to," she says.

"We produce our own meals. So when you're seeing these huge increase increases in food costs, of course that's going to affect how many people were able to serve in the end."

Delivering thousands of meals each week is something that the staff of seven people just can't do alone. And the people who need these meals don't have the option of leaving their homes to go to the foodbank or lining up to access other free or low-cost meal services.

"It's quite an incredible feat that we're able to do in the community," Martella says.

While Martella has been able to get creative by working with suppliers to buy in bulk at a discount and partnering with other organizations that have budgets to pay for the meals they provide, she worries about what will happen next.

"I feel like we're in a very unknown territory. We don't even know if there will be another wave of COVID or not. Gas prices, those don't seem like they're coming down. Food prices don't seem like they're coming down," she says. "It's really tough."

For more information on A Loving Spoonful, including how to volunteer, visit their website.