Sequestration could hurt Meals on Wheels

Nonproft estimates having to cut up to 10,000 meals a year

Author: Marilyn Moritz, Reporter, mmoritz@ksat.com
Published On: Feb 25 2013 06:23:25 PM CST   Updated On: Mar 01 2013 06:32:34 PM CST
SAN ANTONIO -

Homebound senior citizens who receive food from Meals on Wheels could be impacted if automatic budget cuts take effect at the end of the week.

In Texas alone, about $3.6 million in funding for meals for seniors is at risk, according to the White House.

"We are now looking at the real possibility this could happen on Friday," said Sharon Baughman, CEO of Christian Senior Service's Meal on Wheels, one of the largest nonprofits in Bexar County.

Meals on Wheels, which delivers 950,000 hot meals to homebound seniors each year, gets a little more than half of its funding from the government.

"We haven't seen any increase in our federal funding for years," Baughman said. "Now, they're talking cuts. So we are really just trying to put a pencil to paper."

She estimated the program would have to cut up to 10,000 meals a year if the budget cuts take place. Compounding the crunch, the cuts come as the program is seeing increased demand.

Volunteer Marilyn Jones used her own minivan and gas to deliver meals to a list of clients.

"I hope this is not one of the things that gets cut out because these people are in need," Jones said.

Oscar Cantu is one of the seniors Jones regularly visits, taking a meal and an extra chocolate milk.

Cantu said he looks forward to her knock on the door.

"Yeah," he said, "because she always brings me chocolate."

Meals on Wheels provides nutrition, often the only meal of the day, to homebound seniors who can't get to the store or cook for themselves. 

Baughman believes cuts to the program would actually cost more in the long run.

"It's cheaper for the community and country not to have to help people get into nursing homes, which cost $35,000 to $50,000 a year, versus Meals on Wheels, which is $1,200 to $1,300 a year," she said.

In addition to providing nutrition, the program also provides human contact and someone to talk to.

"Some of them get a pretty big smile on their face when they see us," said Teresa Galvan, who works for Meals on Wheels.

The nonprofit already depends on volunteers, but now Baughman said they will reach out to the community to bridge the impending gap.