Non-profits struggling under weight of high gas prices

Non-profits struggling under weight of high gas prices »Play Video
SEATTLE - Non-profit groups in the Seattle area say they are being hurt badly by high gas prices, and it is the low-income that will suffer.

Meals on Wheels is Waddell Franklin's lifeline. On Thursday, his 73rd birthday, he got his weekly delivery.

"(It's) very important, very important," Franklin said. "My closest store is QFC and they are way up in the middle class."

Waddell is on limited income and oxygen. For him, the Meals on Wheels food is free.

He probably doesn't realize that Tary Nelson's delivery van gets 8 miles per gallon, nor that the high price of gas may force cutbacks.

It could mean that next time, Frederick Hines won't get all his macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and French toast.

Frederick didn't have cash Thursday, but he told KOMO 4 News: "I told them tomorrow when I get my SSI (Supplemental Security Income), I'm going to lay $5 or $10 on them just to kinda help them out."

His $5 or $10 will help; but the program needs a lot of 5's and 10's.

Nelson delivered the food to the two men. She said those who get the service are great people.

"They do what they can. They have to eat. It's all we can ask," she said.

The bosses at Meals on Wheels, a kidney dialysis center, and Northwest Harvest spoke out at a Seattle news conference. Their common plea? "Help."

Shelley Rotondo of Northwest Harvest says demand for food is climbing as fast as gas prices.

"People say the high cost of gas is making them choose between food and gas," Rotondo said.

Northwest Harvest itself is not immune. They are spending so much on gas, they have fewer dollars to buy food.

Senator Maria Cantwell promises to push for an anti-gouging law. She and others are also looking at the huge profits of gas companies.

"There is a bi-partisan effort to target some of those profits and put them into a program similar to the low-income energy assistance program," Sen. Cantwell said.

She is pushing a bill, already passed by the House, to give the Federal Trade Commission the power to look at possible manipulation of gas supplies. The bill provides criminal penalties for what she calls "price gouging."

She also says the future is clear: The U.S. must do more to develop alternative energy sources.