Uncle Food's Diner weathers tough times

Uncle Food's Diner, a weekly free meal program in Ashland, is in the midst of lean times — food donations have tapered off and grant funding for administrative work has been halved.

Peace House, which runs the program, plans to continue serving the meals for at least a year, even as it struggles to do more with less, said Pam Vavra, executive director.

"Our confidence in our ability to continue the program beyond another year is in question," she said. "But there's no immediate danger of losing that program."

Uncle Foods used to receive large donations of food from Southern Oregon University's dining commons, but since Sodexo Worldwide took over the university's food service program in August, the donations have dropped off, said Vincent Muolo, program manager of Uncle Food's.

Now, Muolo spends substantially more at grocery stores, buying food for the 4:30 p.m. Thursday meals at First United Methodist Church's Wesley Hall, 175 N. Main St.

Just last week, Peace House officials learned that the nonprofit would receive half of the $10,000 private grant it had received in years past.

Peace House relies on grants and donations to fund the free meal program. Providing the meals and paying related administration fees costs roughly $1,400 per month, Vavra said.

"We are looking at alternative funding mechanisms than what we have relied on in the past, and if we are not successful in doing that, then the meal could be in jeopardy," she said.

Between 60 and 100 people attend each gathering — and many rely on it as a chance to eat a nutritious dinner, Muolo said.

"We're beginning to see families with kids," he said. "This is not going to get any better."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

Share This Story