Meals on Wheels has received much attention since the White House budget proposed cuts to Community Development Block Grant funding. This is money the federal government gives states to disperse at their discretion.
Each Meals on Wheels program across the country is run independently. Many rely on federal funding, which includes CDBG funding as well as Older Americans Act money. The OAA provides 35 percent of the total funding for Meals on Wheels programs nationally and is part of the Department of Health and Human Services budget, which has not yet been released.
TLC Meals on Wheels delivers meals in south metro Denver. TLC has diverse funding sources that include meal payments, individual donations, foundation grants, community and religious organization donations, fundraising events and local government.
TLC does not request or receive OAA funds, but $34,000 or about 6 percent of our annual budget is from the City of Centennial’s block-grant money. Last year, we also received an additional $25,000 block grant to help purchase new kitchen equipment, which increases our capacity to continue meeting the needs of a growing senior population.
Four-hundred seniors in our community rely on TLC Meals on Wheels for a nutritious meal, a visit from a volunteer who may be the only person they see that day, and a sense of security that someone is checking in on them. The program affirms that the community cares about the well-being of our neighbors.
The impact of our service is measurable. In a recent survey, 81 percent of our clients indicated that receiving meals improved their overall quality of life, and 84 percent agree that participating in the program allows them to remain independent in their own home, which is much more cost-effective than other alternatives. After all, we can provide a senior with meals for an entire year for $1,200, roughly the same cost of an average one-day stay in the hospital or 10 days or less in a nursing home.
Not everyone we serve is indigent. About 40 percent of our clients or their family contribute $4 per meal, which is the most we ask. Thirty-five percent are fully subsidized. The remaining 25 percent pay what they can. We know their contribution of even a small amount is important to maintaining their pride.
As Virginia Baker, the founder of TLC Meals on Wheels, said upon receiving Littleton’s Most Valuable Citizen Award in 1974, “It’s terrible to be old and cold and hungry in a country as rich as this.”
In the event Congress approves the CDBG cuts, it will have an impact on TLC Meals on Wheels, but not devastatingly so. Fortunately, we live in a supportive community. Donations, large and small, are always appreciated. We trust that if CDBG funds are no longer available, others will step up to help ensure our ability to continue to drive away hunger and senior isolation in our community.
For more information, to volunteer or donate, visit tlcmealsonwheels.org or call 303-798-7642.
Diane McClymonds is executive director of TLC Meals on Wheels.
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