Trump budget cuts may slow Meals on Wheels

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

35 percent of program funded through federal government

Aging Baby Boomers and local senior citizens dependent on the Meals on Wheels program may find themselves dealing with food insecurity issues and their related health complications if President Donald Trump's "skinny budget" is passed.

The Meals on Wheels program, run through local Senior Centers, receives about 35 percent of its budget through the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program, which falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The impact on these funds has not yet been announced, but with the proposed 17.9 percent cut budgeted for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Meals on Wheels programs across the nation might be at risk.

The proposed elimination of two block grant programs, the Community Services Block Grant and Community Development Block Grant, may slow funding to the program, as they are available for states to direct at their own discretion to a number of community programs, which for some states includes additional funding for Meals on Wheels. A third block grant program, Social Services Block Grant, which also provides discretionary money for states to use for nutrition services, is also at risk.

"At this point, we just don't know what's going to happen," said Lori Balmas, administrator of the Monett Senior Center. "We are funded by both federal and state monies, but we're just like everyone else right now. We just have to wait and see."

But Balmas is thinking ahead to cover as many bases as she can in the event funding is cut.

"If [the budget passes], we will have to modify the program," she said.

The Monett Senior Center delivers approximately 30,000 meals to seniors and shut-ins in the Monett, Pierce City, Purdy and Freistatt communities annually. The center has approximately 30 volunteers, 15 of which are drivers. The remainder help run the desk, and set up the monthly dances and annual fundraising events to help generate funds for the program.

The Cassville Senior Center delivers approximately 42,000 meals to seniors and shut-ins annually.

The center has approximately two kitchen volunteers, and an additional 10 volunteers, nine of which are drivers.

Pierce City's Center is not dependent on state or federal funding. According to Maura Sparks, administrator of the center, Pierce City, Mt. Vernon, Aurora and Miller centers are funded through the Lawrence County Senior Tax Board.

"That's good for us," Sparks said. "We try to manage our money well. Other centers have paid employees, but we have about 50 volunteers who do everything from the cooking to washing dishes and cleaning the facility. [The Lawrence County Senior Tax funding] has worked out well for us."

Central Crossing Senior Center at Shell Knob delivers approximately 22 home delivered meals to seniors and shut-ins five days per week. According to Administrator Terri Bradford, a total of 80 frozen meals are delivered every other week to residents in hard-to-access areas. The center has approximately 10 volunteers, four of which are drivers. The remainder help with quarterly fundraising breakfast events to help generate funds to supplement the program and support the center.

Administrators and volunteers also serve concessions at the annual Home Show in Shell Knob, with those proceeds bolstering the nutrition program and center maintenance.

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