Meals On Wheels Takes A Federal Cut

Elderly and often disabled people who depend on the service provided by Area Agency on Aging Region IV will have to resort to putting their names on a waiting list.

In March, older people who are physically unable to leave their homes took a hit with Federal budget cuts that resulted in reduced hot meals. As a result, sequestion funding for the senior nutrition program in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties has been reduced $61,310 this year, or 8.4 percent.

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Elderly and often disabled people who depend on the service provided by Area Agency on Aging Region IV will have to resort to putting their names on a waiting list.  Christine Vanlandingham, fund and development officer for the agency, based in St. Joseph, said it’s heartbreaking to require the wait.

“They don’t need a meal in six months. They need it now,” she said.

The agency is forced to cut the number of meals it provides by 19,361 through Sept. 30, the end of the government’s fiscal year.

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Meals on wheels programs provide nutrition for housebound people over 60 while giving them social contact. Most of the seniors have few outside visitors.

“For someone in a rural area that’s the only person they see all day,” Vanlandingham said. “It’s certainly a social contact but it’s also a safety check.”

The state provides money for senior nutrition programs. After several years of severe cuts, funding is scheduled to increase 2 percent statewide in 2013-14. Across-the-board spending cuts of $85 billion enacted after Congress failed to agree on specific areas to make reductions, taking $38.7 million from meals on wheels programs nationwide. In Michigan, meals for the elderly programs were slashed $1.8 million.

Senior nutrition programs deliver savings to taxpayers by helping people remain in their homes when they otherwise might have to move into assisted-living residences.

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“These are physically frail individuals, certainly at-risk individuals,” Vanlandingham said. “This (meal) delivery helps them to continue to live in their own homes.”

At a rough cost of $5 daily for of delivering a hot meal to a person compares to at least $178 a day for Medicaid-supported nursing home care, Vanlandingham said.

During the 2012 fiscal year, Area Agency Region IV received $712,676 in federal support and $441,875 in state support for nutrition services for older adults, a total of just over $1.15 million.

Of the sum, $769,760 went toward meals delivered directly to senior citizens’ homes and $384,791 was used for meals in community settings.

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Christopher J. Berry is an elder law attorney Dedicated to helping seniors, veterans and their families navigate the long-term care maze. To learn more visit or call 248.481.4000