Meals on Wheels cuts would be shortsighted
Meals on Wheels programs provide nutritious meals and lifeline safety checks to frail homebound seniors and disabled community members, lowering malnourishment and food insecurity. Nationally, Meals on Wheels feeds more than 2.4 million seniors and 500,000 veterans annually; more than 1.5 million meals were served by Meals on Wheels for Western New York in 2016 alone. Volunteers are more often than not the only people clients will see and the volunteers are a lifeline for those clients.
Recently, the president released his budget blueprint that includes significant funding cuts to Meals on Wheels programs. His budget director defended the cuts by commenting that Meals on Wheels sounds great, but doesn’t work.
Here’s what research says. States that invest more in delivering meals to seniors’ homes have lower rates of low-care seniors in nursing homes. Malnourishment leads to chronic illness and more than half of senior hospitalizations; 8 percent more readmissions and eight days’ longer stays in hospitals than non-malnourished seniors. The result is drastically higher health care costs ($25 billion for readmissions alone) and Medicaid costs. In fact, every dollar invested in MOW saves $50 in Medicaid costs.
The president says, “we are going to do more with less.” I challenge any program or business to do more with less than Meals on Wheels programs have done. MOW-WNY functions effectively with a bare-bones budget and thousands of hours of help from almost 1,700 volunteers – more than $2 million in a free labor of love. MOW programs simply cannot do any more with less. Waiting lists for meals already are spreading across this country like wildfire, because of inadequate federal funding to meet the need. Any cuts to MOW programs are both shortsighted and morally questionable.
Tara A. Ellis
President and CEO,
Meals on Wheels for WNY
President, Meals on Wheels
New York State Association