Sequestration Cuts Affecting Some Meals on Wheels Programs

May 20, 2013

Credit Local Office on Aging, Roanoke

Sequestration cuts are starting to affect some Meals on Wheels programs throughout the Commonwealth. 

The Local Area on Aging in Roanoke is losing $96,000 from its Meals on Wheels program this federal fiscal year. 

That’s a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses the program is taking around the Commonwealth. 

The LOA in Roanoke serves 650 senior citizens in Roanoke City and County, Salem, Vinton, and Botetourt, Craig, and Alleghany Counties with meals five days a week.  To make ends meet, spokesman Shannon Abell says they’re trimming that number to 600 and eliminating 13,000 meals a year from the program.

“On a holiday when we’re not open or when we’re expecting snow days or something to that effect, we purchase extra bag meals-shelf stable bag meals-for the senior to keep in the home so that if we can’t get out, they have something to eat.  Well, those are much more expensive that the regular meal that is being delivered.  So we are dropping bag meals completely.”

Seventeen people are on a waiting list for the hot meals, including a client who has stage 4 cancer.  Abell says after meeting with Meals on Wheels staff, the man asked when he would begin receiving meals.

“We do prioritize according to need, but we had to tell him we had no idea how long it would be and it broke the case manager’s heart to have to tell him that.  He needs meals now; one or two months from now he may be gone.”

To reach 600, Abell says they’ve been removing those seniors from the list who have a relative or friend who can cook for them.  He says some seniors have even taken themselves off the list, saying someone else may need the food more than they do. 

The sequestration is affecting Meals on Wheels programs across Virginia in different ways.  The Rappahannock Area Agency on Aging serves 102 residents in Fredericksburg and Caroline, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and King George Counties.  Executive Director Leigh Wade says they’re losing $8,000 for their Meals on Wheels program. 

“The cuts have been not adding people on.  As people have attritioned off of the programs, then, rather than replacing them, we just didn’t fill their spot.”

She says they also have a waiting list for their services.  In the meantime, they’re partnering with local food banks and others to provide a monthly box of food to fill their clients’ cupboards.  Abell and Wade are bracing themselves for more cuts which may be announced later this year.