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Kari Kietzer, left, the CEO of Meals on Wheels East Texas, gives an update to the board of directors on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Tyler, Texas. (Erin Mansfield/Tyler Morning Telegraph)

The leader of a nonprofit feeding the area’s seniors is reporting increased costs for food, but general optimism about the organization’s finances.

For the first time in a decade, the cost of purchasing food for Meals on Wheels East Texas will go up, CEO Kari Kietzer told the board of directors at a regular monthly meeting Tuesday.

Kietzer said the organization has an updated contract with its Mississippi-based provider, Valley Services Inc., to pay more for the senior meals.

“Effectively what that means is our door-to-door meal costs will now be $8.22 cents for fiscal year 2020,” she said.

She said the organization is in a holding pattern with the East Texas Council of Governments-Area Agency on Aging, one of its major government revenue sources, for months of spending.

“We billed for January,” she said. “We are still in a holding pattern pending approval for the subsequent months.”

A canceled check obtained by the Tyler Morning Telegraph in April shows that the Area Agency on Aging paid Meals on Wheels East Texas about $87,000 in response to an invoice dated Jan. 31, that the agency indicated it received on April 15.

A spokesman for another funding agency, Texas Department of Agriculture, said it routed a payment in late April in response to a grant report it received April 24. That report was due March 1 under its contract.

Kietzer said the organization is likely to see increased reimbursement for some of its meals because the Texas Legislature allocated millions of dollars more per year statewide for senior meal programs.

Kietzer said the organization has been receiving $4.95 per meal under one of its contracts, and that number could go up in the next fiscal year. She said the reimbursement price per meal has not been increased in more than 20 years.

“Numbers anywhere from $5.10 to $5.20 have been thrown around, but we don’t actually know what it will shake out to be, but anything is better than $4.95 at this point for everybody,” she said.

Joe Denson, the chairman of the board of director’s finance committee, said the organization has more than $1 million in its investment account. He said there’s always an open question about that account based on what the market will do.

Jennifer Hines, the board’s chair-elect, said the operations committee is working on a strategic plan due at the end of the week. Other board members also said they were working on fundraising, and getting a good deal on insurance.

Kietzer said fundraising has been up, thanks to the work of a grant writer. She said individual gifts are going up. Mail-in donations are down, but she said those tend to ebb and flow.

For the past four weeks, the organization has served between 2,500 and 2,600 meals per day, Kietzer said.

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Government Reporter

Erin came to Tyler from Vermont, where she worked for VTDigger.org and previously the Rutland Herald. She received her B.A. in Economics and Spanish from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she also attended journalism school.

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