Shakopee’s only low-cost meal delivery program is closing its doors after 40 years, leaving those who rely on it in limbo.
Shakopee Mobile Meals will shut down Dec. 31, saying a change of kitchens and federal administration requirements have made it too difficult to continue operating the volunteer and donation-based program.
“We’re sorry the program’s closing, but we just feel like we can’t meet the needs,” said the program’s president, Ruth Lipker.
St. Francis Regional Medical Center founded St. Francis Mobile Meals in 1975, delivering low-cost meals to people unable to cook for themselves. In its first 30 years, the program delivered more than 100,000 meals, Lipker said. Most clients are elderly, she said, but the program has no age restrictions.
Mobile Meals broke off from St. Francis about five years ago after the hospital said it could no longer provide kitchen space. After that, Dangerfield’s restaurant in downtown Shakopee took over the cooking duties.
Dangerfield’s owner Gus Khwice said volunteers packaged and delivered the meals — typically the restaurant’s daily special. If a client had a dietary restriction, he said, they would try to accommodate it.
But Lipker said there were some requests — a soft-food diet for an elderly client, for example — that couldn’t be accommodated. And because Shakopee Mobile Meals is the only provider in the city, there was nowhere to refer those clients.
“I felt like we were almost a disservice then to the people who really did need these special diets,” she said. “There was no place for them to get them.”
Most clients paid a few dollars per meal, but some got financial assistance. When Shakopee Mobile Meals was unable to meet the federal administrative guidelines in recent years, Lipker said, it lost those clients.
The change was noticeable, Khwice said. His restaurant was once providing up to 40 meals a day for Shakopee Mobile Meals, he said, but in the end was providing less than a dozen.
It’s unclear if and when another organization will step in. The CAP Agency, which operates Meals on Wheels and other nutrition assistance programs elsewhere in Scott County, is a possibility, Lipker said. But so far, nothing is concrete.
And the remaining clients?
“I don’t know how they’re going to do it,” Lipker said.