Fortunately day two started off a lot less hectic than the first full day in Marin County. While I was shown eye-opening realities I am still trying to come to grips with my thoughts, perceptions and judgments about this whole experience. It’s a lot to digest. I am, in the great words of every idiotic businessperson walking this earth, having a major paradigm shift. I am not incapable of modifying my schema and have recently done so with my views on religion (but that’s another story for a completely different blog and time) but I am always taking the existential view on life and constantly wondering, “why are we here?” and “what’s life all about?” so that’s not new to me. However, I have never really thought about seniors and hunger and dignity and poverty and medication. I have never known what it’s like to go hungry or to not have anyone around for human interaction. I don’t sit alone all day trying to find something to do or reaching out for someone/anyone to share in conversation. But yesterday I met several people whose life is filled with these experiences. It’s completely new and I am experiencing a bit of sensory and emotional overload. With that experience under my belt I believe I can handle whatever Victor has in store for us today.
Spending Day #2 in San Francisco and Marin County
This was a great man I met on Day #1 in Marin County. Suffering from Dementia, Meals on Wheels provides regular check ups and delivers food to this lonely man.
We started by going to his offices and watching his staff put together the food to be delivered. We didn’t get to see that experience yesterday as his car was already loaded when he picked us up at the hotel. While watching Victor and his staff work feverishly but efficiently to get the lunches put together, I noticed a huge pile of bread. These were loaves of French, Ciabatta, Wheat, Rye and Semolina just to name a few. And, these were whole loaves completely in tact and still as beautiful as if they were sitting in the racks at the store. I asked Victor about the bread and he informed me that all of those loaves were from Panera Bread and were going to be thrown out. He has an agreement with Panera to receive their bread for his distribution. I thought that was great and started to wonder how many other restaurants willingly give their “throw away” products to organizations like his. He told me that the bread is still “good” and his clients love it.
We then did an impromptu photo shoot (as seen in the previous blog post) and went into San Francisco to meet his father who runs the Meals on Wheels program there. After that we went to lunch in Marin County and met a fascinating man named Greg Chidlaw. Greg is one of Victor’s other big supporters and helps to throw a fundraising party for Meals on Wheels of Marin County. The lunch was at this great little Italian place called “il Davide” and I had the Calamari Salad (which was absolutely wonderful). We sat around for about an hour after lunch and talked with Greg and Victor about the challenges and issues facing a program like Meals on Wheels in Marin. That again was another incredible learning session. After lunch we went back to Victor’s office to conduct our on-camera interview for the documentary.
Victor’s interview and government waste
Il Davide Restaurant in Marin County
Now, I won’t share everything we talked about so I can save something for the movie but I will leave you with this interesting yet sad information. Victor operates his program with a $520k/year budget. He feeds 330 people, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year and has more than 200 people on the waiting list. The average cost of a meal is around $6. And, we have to factor in gas, overhead, staff, insurance, etc. (i.e. all the costs of doing business). So let’s do the math just based on meals – 330 meals per day x $6 per meal x 5 days per week x 52 weeks per year = $514, 800. Again, we haven’t even taken into account gas, insurance, staff and overhead (or maintenance to vehicles). As you can see he is clearly in need of extra money/funds to continue his service. You would think the county of Marin would be supportive and help considering the vast wealth of the area. That, sadly enough, isn’t the case. In fact, he struggles to get the county to help or provide additional funds. Ironically, the county of Marin conducted a recent study of whether it would be more beneficial for children to ride their bikes to school instead of riding the bus. Umm, I can tell you that riding their bikes would be friendlier to the environment, cut costs of gas, insurance and maintenance for the buses and provide exercise for the children (in case you were wondering, the weather is almost perfect everyday of the year in that area so this is something that could be done for the entire school year). The cost of this “no-brainer” study… $175,000.00! That’s one third of Victor’s budget and the county is talking about reducing his funds next year. That’s right kids… government is really working for you and is extremely efficient.
Tomorrow is my birthday and I am spending it with my wife while seeing Victor’s band in action. Finally I get to see the thrash metal drummer side of this gentle giant.
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