Take a stand for senior meals program

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Imagine living alone. Your spouse of nearly 50 years has passed away. Your sight is failing and arthritis makes it difficult for you to hold a can opener, a vegetable shredder and other kitchen utensils. You are able to live independently, but it is a challenge to cook a meal in your own kitchen.

Each year, senior centers across Missouri prepare and deliver thousands of meals to seniors who find it difficult to cook for themselves. These seniors are capable of maintaining fully independent lives with the assistance of local meals programs. The Cassville Senior Center alone provides over 70,000 meals for area seniors each year.

A few weeks ago, Missouri seniors received notification that state funding for the senior meals program could be cut by over $2 million. Senior centers across the state sent hundreds of signed paper plates to Missouri legislators urging them not to cut funding for this valuable program.

"I received quite a few plates from Monett, Cassville and Shell Knob," said Rep. David Sater. "All the other legislators received plates also. This was a good way to get our attention, and it worked."

Although the Missouri House of Representatives restored budget funding for the senior meals program, the program is still in danger. The budget that has been approved by the House will now be sent to the Senate where funding for some programs could still be cut.

Area senior centers have stood up and asked legislators to spare the meals program. Many will continue to write letters and e-mails to remind legislators about how important the program is for older residents who live alone. I hope that their words will be enough to ensure the meals program will continue to receive adequate funding. I also hope that other Barry County community members will join them in contacting legislators regarding this issue.

Many of the senior citizens living in our community have served our country in foreign wars. Many of them gave up years of their youth to protect our rights and freedoms. In addition, they have helped make our community what it is today. Now, we have an opportunity to help ensure they receive the assistance they need to live happy, healthy, independent lives.

I encourage all area community members to write to legislators regarding the meals program funding. I'm sure we each have a personal story about a parent, grandparent, friend or neighbor who has benefitted from the meals that are served by senior centers in our community. Take a few minutes to let legislators know how valuable this program is and give them a reason to approve a budget that will allow area seniors to continue to receive a nutritious meal from a local senior center.

Letters to Sen. Gary Nodler, appropriations chairman, can be sent to State Capitol Building Room 423, Jefferson City, MO 65101 or e-mailed to gary_nodler@senate.mo.gov. Correspondence for Missouri House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet can be mailed to 201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 306, Jefferson City, MO, 65101 or e-mailed to Allen.Icet@house.mo.gov.

Sen. Jack Goodman can be contacted by writing to State Capitol Building Room 331A, Jefferson City, MO 65101 or jack.goodman@senate.mo.gov. Letters for Sater can be sent to 201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 200BC, Jefferson City, MO 65101 or e-mailed to david.sater@house.mo.gov.

Lindsay Reed