Meals on Wheels director Ashley McCumber helps charity innovate in the age of austerity

(Joseph Schell/Special to The Examiner)

(Joseph Schell/Special to The Examiner)

Ashley McCumber is the executive director of Meals on Wheels of San Francisco. Confronted with an aging population and global cuts to social services, he is finding new ways to raise money. A limited-edition 2012 “Chefs of the Bay Area” calendar went on sale Wednesday at Macy’s Union Square cellar, with all proceeds going to one of The City’s most vulnerable populations — homebound seniors.

Where did this idea for a chefs calendar come from?

Last year, we had 105 chefs at our annual Star Chefs and Vintners Gala [fundraiser], which raised about $1.4 million. This is a natural extension of that work. We’re so linked to the chefs and to the foodie and wine communities, we thought, “Let’s give it a shot.”

How did you choose the 12 chefs?

In the first year, you really just hope enough people will sign on and help you. We put together a list with a variety of chefs who had been supportive of us in the past and just went out and asked them. There wasn’t really a criteria, per se, we just wanted to have a balance of chefs with different styles and genders.

You brought out a really fun side of these chefs in the pictures. How did you get behind the curtain?

I was amazed. I had no idea it would turn out this creative. It’s really fun. I think the chefs brainstormed on what type of things they would like to have representing them in the pictures. … The chefs who took their shirts off probably did it because they’re comfortable with it and because they really believe in the cause — whatever they can do to promote the cause, they will.

Why is this fundraiser so important to Meals on Wheels of San Francisco?

This fundraising is so important because we’re facing a historic demographic shift. We’ve already experienced 37 percent growth in five years and in that same time, government support of our program has only grown by 1 percent. So the only thing that’s going to keep seniors from waiting for service is really private resources. This calendar is another opportunity to put our name out there.

Who will benefit from this effort?

We’re serving home-bound seniors who have a limited ability to shop, a limited ability to cook and limited support. It’s not a financial screen, but most of our clients are very low-income. In addition to delivering 14 meals a week to them, we also have safety checks, nutritionists and dieticians who help and volunteer matches for friendly visits. All of that comes together to reduce isolation or, as we say, nourish the whole person. Two-thirds of our clients — roughly 70 percent — live off of public assistance, which means they’re living in San Francisco on roughly $850 a month.

What are your goals for this calendar?

First, we want to raise awareness about our mission and the need. Secondarily, we want to make sure that we sell every single calendar we print. We printed 10,000 of these things and we’re hoping that they all sell. If they do we can raise significant dollars for Meals on Wheels, somewhere in the range of $180,000.

Where can the public buy this calendar?

Anyone can visit the Meals on Wheels website and purchase a calendar right now. They can find all the information by simply going to mowsf.org.

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