Meals on Wheels in Port Alberni loses kitchen under BCLC’s gaming centre closure

The Cypress restaurant at Chances Rimrock usually cooks for homebound clients

Volunteers with Meals on Wheels package up extra meals for their clients at Chances Rim Rock Casino. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Volunteers with Meals on Wheels package up extra meals for their clients at Chances Rim Rock Casino. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

The sudden closure of all gaming centres and casinos in British Columbia has left the Alberni Valley’s Meals on Wheels program in a meal crisis.

Chances Rimrock’s kitchen staff has been preparing weekly Meals on Wheels meals for clients for the past five years. Due to the BC Lottery Corporation’s decision to close gaming centres due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cypress restaurant kitchen was to close down on Monday, March 16.

“They’ve kindly agreed to put together a bigger package of meals for clients today,” Meals on Wheels spokesperson Dawna Sawyer said.

The kitchen is normally closed on Mondays, so residents receive meals Tuesday through Saturday.

Clients usually receive one meal on Tuesday and then enough on Friday to last through the weekend. “Going forward we’re investigating different ways of maintaining this program over the COVID-19 crisis, because we have clients who depend on our service,” Sawyer said. “We are trying to stay in operation.”

Normally there are five drivers volunteering each day to deliver meals to clients, but the call went out Monday for all 25-30 drivers to show up at 3 p.m. to pick up larger-than-normal meal totes and deliver them.

Vishal Dewli, Chances Rimrocks’ food and beverage general manager, said he is doing everything he can to ensure Meals on Wheels clients are fed. “We’re working to a solution to be able to support this program,” he said late Monday.

“We have the meals figured out for the next five days and we should have something in place for them.”

Some of the Chances kitchen staff will be retained to cook meals, and both Dewli and Sawyer are looking for another commercial kitchen to use.

The closure “is a BCLC directive at this time,” Dewli said. “They’re looking at us as a gaming centre; we’re trying to tell them we’re in a unique situation.”

Chances has approached BCLC to make an exception so they can open the kitchen for a number of hours and make meals to be delivered.

Anyone wanting more information about Meals on Wheels can call 250-730-0390.

CoronavirusGamingPort Alberni