LA charities hit hard by record gas prices


Staff and volunteers travel nearly 800 miles a day throughout the Southland delivering it for Meals on Wheels. Now skyrocketing fuel prices are hitting them where it hurts.

"I remember at one time several years ago, we paid like $2,000 a month for gas. We pay now close to $2,000 a week," said Sister Alice Marie Quinn, the director and founder of the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels in Los Angeles.

The gas money wasn't in the budget. To make up for it, Meals on Wheels said it is going to have to ask for more donations. They also plan to modify the menus and don't plan to replace staff who leave or retire.

Quinn said she won't let anyone go hungry, no matter what it takes.

"We'll never have to put anybody off the program or put anybody on a waiting list," she said. "We've never had to do that in 35 years."

Across town, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is experiencing the same problem, making it the latest challenge in an area where unemployment is among the highest in the country and food prices are also going up.

"Seeing over $5 a gallon just happening seemingly overnight, my first reaction was surprise, and my second reaction was, 'Oh my gosh, how is this going to hit us at the Food Bank?'" said Michael Flood, the charity's CEO.

The Food Bank, a hub for 640 other smaller agencies throughout Los Angeles County who distribute the food, is also hoping donations will pick up as the holiday season approaches and gas prices will fall.

Robert Anderson, manager at the Action Community Outreach Foundation, picks up meals at the Food Bank to distribute. He said the only answer for problems you can't plan for is hope.

"You've got to have faith and belief, but you have to be factual, too, and understand that we are in a crisis right now and hopefully the California economy will change," Anderson said.

The state's record high gas prices - currently the highest in the nation - could drop within a week, depending on how quickly refineries can get the winter blend fuel to market.

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