JEFFERSON CITY - Funding for the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging's (MA4) Home Delivered Meals Program is on the Missouri Senate's chopping block. More than 32,000 Missouri seniors rely on the meal program each year.
In March, the Missouri House approved the addition of $1.5 million in home delivered meals program funding in its version of the budget--an addition Governor Nixon recommended as well. On April 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended elimination of the additional funding. MA4 executive director Catherine Edwards said the cut will result in a loss of 250,000 meals for Missouri seniors. "We are alarmed by the senate committee's action and ask them to reconsider their recommendation," said Edwards. "Federal cuts under sequestration are a done deal. If the senate cuts remain in effect, the program will be seriously compromised and Missouri seniors will pay the price."
This is not the first time the program has faced cuts. In 2010, the program lost $1.4 million in funding. "The legislature had promised at the time that it would restore those funds fully the next year," said Edwards. "Instead, it has taken us three years to get 2/3 of that back." The house's recommended budget would restore the final $500,000 from the 2010 cut.
Edwards said the additional $1 million is needed to maintain the program. "It's an expensive program when you consider that each meal averages about 7 dollars. The cost of food is increasing, the cost of delivering the meals is increasing because of gas prices, and the senior population is increasing every day."
Home-delivered meals help the elderly "age in place" and remain in their homes and communities even as their health and functioning declines. "This program is helpful because the people actually get to stay at home," said Clarke Senior Center meal coordinator Frankie Reames. "They don't have to go to a home as quickly and they like that freedom."
Edwards said Missouri is ranked thirteenth for food insecurity among senior citizens. "If you keep cutting funding on a program, you come to a tipping point when the program is no longer viable," said Edwards. "We just can't afford these state cuts when we're facing federal cuts because of sequestration."