Meals on Wheels gets a financial flat

Meals on Wheels gets a financial flat
The Meals on Wheels program that serves our area is about to get a flat. Five hundred hot dinners a day will begin to dwindle, because lawmakers were unable to agree.

From the tray, to the car to the door; now repeat 500 times a day and that's just the Columbia Basin. The plight of food insecure seniors is growing, faster than meals on wheels can keep up.

“The numbers are exploding,” said Marcee Woffinden, nutrition services director for Meals on Wheels. “We estimate the meal growth in our area will double by 2030." Unfortunately, their budget won't even come close.

“We're talking thousands, it looks like we could lose up to $40,000; and for us $40,000 would equal 6,000 to 6,500 meals," said Woffinden.

Remember sequestration? The countdown down to government shutdown never panned out, but leaders also didn't make a deal. On March 1st, $85 million dollars in automatic spending cuts took effect. WIC, food stamps and other programs were pushed out, senior nutrition was left in.

“That means an across the board cut to our program," said Woffinden, cuts to seniors like Norma. “It means the difference between me having something to eat,” said Norma Shultz, a senior living in Richland using the Meals on Wheels service. “Because I don't drive and I am having a hard time getting rides to the store, so it means a lot to me."

“I lose sleep over this,” said Woffinden. “Whose grandma is not going to receive meals? Who am I going to put on a waiting list that's coming home with a broken hip from the hospital?"

Meals on Wheels is considering stopping daily service once a month, once a week, even closing kitchen sites to absorb the cuts. That's just our community, nationwide 70% of meals on wheels programs cut food service, 50% are reducing the number of seniors served.

It's a community problem now says Woffinden; the private sector will need to fill the gap.

“It affects the senior across the street from you who's alone in the world."

The latest data from 2011 showed nearly 9 million seniors nationwide faced the threat of hunger, an 885 increase from 2001. Woffinden sad without a daily hot meal, many seniors would go into nursing homes. Meals on Wheels can feed a senior for a year on what Medicaid charges you to house a senior for a month.