The Shaunavon Standard Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Meals on Wheels program in Shaunavon is facing a volunteer shortage.
“Several communities across Saskatchewan are experiencing a shortage of Meals on Wheels volunteers, including Shaunavon,” explained Leanne Schutte, the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s Manager of Volunteer Services in the Southwest.
Meals on Wheels has a long history in Shaunavon that dates back several decades. The program provides hot, nutritional meals to individuals who might not be able to prepare their own meals.
Meals on Wheels has been part of most Saskatchewan communities since the late 1970s.
“Meals on Wheels is a vital program in helping our elderly people or vulnerable people stay in their homes rather than considering extended living situations,” said Schutte. “It helps them to receive a nutritious meal instead of just cooking something out of the cupboard that isn’t a well-balanced meal.”
Meals on Wheels runs Monday to Friday in Shaunavon, and all of the meals are delivered during the lunch hour.
There are currently 13 individual volunteers – from nine different local businesses and organizations – who help with the Shaunavon deliveries. The number of deliveries range from four to ten meals a day.
Although the times could vary day to day, Schutte estimates that local Meals on Wheels volunteers would have to commit approximately 30 minutes a day.
Health officials say that volunteers can sign up to offer any level of support they can provide.
“Some people volunteer one day a week, some volunteers like to do a whole week and others will stay on a casual list to be called as needed,” said Schutte. “We’ll accept anyone at any commitment level that they can provide.”
Schutte says there have actually been a few times in Shaunavon when there hasn’t been enough volunteers to carry out the service. In each case, other SHA staff have been pulled in from their jobs to make the deliveries. That puts more stress on the health care system, particularly in those communities where there are staff shortages.
“In some other communities, homecare is experiencing a shortage of staff members,” explained Schutte. “So, if we can’t get volunteers and homecare are shorted staff, it can cause some challenges.”
Schutte says there could be several reasons for the shortage of volunteers, including the ongoing COVID challenge and some of the added health restrictions in place for people looking to volunteer.
“We currently have some restrictions in place due to the pandemic,” she commented. “And another reason why we’re experiencing a shortage is that people are taking a step back to protect themselves and just not being willing to spend any extra time out in the community.”
SHA has implemented a standardized provincial registration process for those looking to volunteer with Meals on Wheels.
The process ensures that volunteers remain safe during the pandemic by receiving proper infection control orientation and training to stay safe.
“We have volunteer coordinators that are trained and available to help volunteers and help our homecare staff with the registration and orientation process,” said Schutte.
Schutte says the proof of vaccination directive, which requires all health care workers to be fully vaccinated, also applies to all volunteers.
If anyone is interested in volunteering for Meals on Wheels in Shaunavon they can call Jolene Reimer in Swift Current, the co-ordinator for volunteer services, at 306-778-5114. Or they can call the Shaunavon Hospital and go to the admin extension. Interested people can also email at firstname.lastname@example.org.