“I have delivered meals for Meals on Wheels all four years of high school, and every single trip has been a sincerely uplifting and fun experience. I think this experience is important, because it taught me that volunteering is not necessarily grueling work – most often, it secures our faith in our community and ourselves as human beings, while allowing the benefactors the irreplaceable service of food and friendship” – Van Tetzner, senior.
Van is one of the many volunteers throughout the country who volunteer with Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels provides several different types of meals for low mobility people over 60, that accommodate each person’s diet, such as meals with low-sodium or for diabetics. There are also brown bag meals for those who need a meal over the weekend when there are no deliveries made.
However, the program also provides irreplaceable social interactions each week. Dartagnon Johnson, senior, says that for some, it’s the only human interaction seniors get for the day or the week: “One of the best stories I have is of a man named Dan who calls me a lady every time I see him so everytime I go to his house I try to make my voice a bit deeper but it doesn’t work, but he is still super nice. And once I asked him if he knew I was a guy and he said, ‘I didn’t the first few times, but after the third time I realized because I noticed you were making your voice deeper on purpose, but I kept doing it because I thought it was funny.’”
While Meals on Wheels has proven beneficial with 5,000 community organizations operating under the name, there are substantial budget cuts being proposed by the Trump administration.
The main government funding for Meals on Wheels is the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program, run by the Department of Health and Human Services. The money allocated is based off of the amount of meals served in the program the previous year, meaning little overspending occurs because it’s more accurate than a prediction.
But one could argue that with the rising average lifespan, the government cannot afford to continue funding this program. On the other hand, one could argue that because of the growing lifespan, it is the worst possible time to cut funding. Both are valid arguments.
It is important to remember that even though it is volunteer run, there are more than just food expenses. There are paid administrative positions with salaries, and the cost of running the facilities Meals on Wheels is housed in.
While donations are crucial to any volunteer organization such as this, on an average day, only about $1,000 is donated to the program, which is very little for such a large organization. However, with the large amount of public attention, donations have risen to as high as $160,000 a day.It is hard to say when the public attention will die down, leading to less donations.
If funding to the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program is cut, it could become harder for elderly participants in the program to receive the program benefits. This would possibly lead to physical and mental health problems, with those in paid positions for Meals on Wheels possibly losing their jobs. All in all, this would lead into a less functional program, which could cause the government to lose any remaining faith they had in it, ending Meals on Wheels as we know it.
– Leah Vredenbregt and Audrianna Wu