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High gas prices have Meals on Wheels running on empty

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Sure it's expensive for you to fill up - but what if you had to drive to a million houses a day?

Gas prices are putting a squeeze on Meals on Wheels deliveries, reports Ernest Lamothe Jr. at the Democrat and Chronicle:

Almost 80 percent of Meals on Wheels programs have lost volunteers due to higher gas prices and 25 percent of those programs reported having to reduce the number of meals served per week. Now, long waiting lists exist for homebound seniors who rely on meal delivery. "For our Meals on Wheels programs, it is a triple whammy because gas prices are up, food prices are up and the economy is down," said Enid Borden, president and CEO for the national Meals on Wheels Association of America. "Our meal programs and the people they serve need help now. Just how long can we ask these seniors to wait for a life-sustaining meal?"

The prices of those meals are also going up, thanks to the demand for biofuels, reports Kevin Bullis at MIT's Technology Review:

Many experts say the unprecedented prices are at least partially driven by government subsidies and mandates that have led to fourfold increases in production of ethanol biofuel and tenfold increases in production of biodiesel between 2000 and 2009. In the United States, multiple bills and amendments have been introduced to scale back subsidies as a way of trimming the federal budget, and on Thursday the Senate voted to end tax credits for ethanol that amounted to nearly $6 billion. (The program won't be killed unless the House passes its own law ending it.) The [World Trade Organization] WTO report cited many reasons for the high prices and volatility, including changes in demand for food, bad weather, low stock, and the recent high cost of oil. Oil prices directly affect the production costs of food by raising the price of tractor fuel and fertilizers. If oil is expensive enough, it can also increase demand for biofuels, which drives up the price of crops such as corn and sugarcane.

A new study out from George Mason University adds another bad accolade to New York's resume: it's the "least free" state, reports All Over Albany.  That's because of our high taxes, spending, and restrictive laws on guns and tobacco.

A Welch Allyn executive has been approved to chair the board of Empire State Development, the state's economic development agency, reports Eric Reinhardt reports at the Greater Binghamton Business Journal.

And finally, via Christine Borne at Rust Wire, a tearful farewell to the Cleveland Food Co-op.  The closure of that institution has nothing to do with upstate New York's innovation economy, but it did keep your editor from getting scurvy during her four years at Case Western Reserve, so a debt is owed. 

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