Benefit Bulletin: June 2017

Benefit Bulletin: June 2017

Trump’s Budget Plan To Make America Great Again — Starve The Elderly

When President Trump released his first budget recently, the public got its first glimpse of his actual budget plans to Make America Great Again. The Meals on Wheels program was a casualty.

Meals on Wheels, is one of the oldest, most well-known food programs in the U.S., that provides nutritious daily meals for about 2.4 million low-income older Americans. In addition to making home deliveries to seniors at risk of hunger, isolation and losing their independence, the program also provides meals served in a group setting — like senior centers. While programs vary, meals are delivered or served Mondays through Friday in many areas, and weekends in some parts of the country. More than 63% of the people served are older women.

The President’s budget called for the elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant, which funds Meals on Wheels. At a press conference, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney defended the new spending plan, saying that Meals on Wheels “sounds great,” but the administration can’t keep wasting money on programs like it that “don’t show results.”

What Mulvaney meant by that, we don’t know. Meals on Wheels clients say the program helps improve their health, allowing them to remain living safely and more securely in their own home. In fact, the evidence suggests that by providing daily meals, Meals on Wheels is helping to save healthcare costs by reducing the risk of hospitalization and nursing home stays. A 2010 partnership paired Meals on Wheels programs with local health systems to serve recently discharged seniors. Participating hospitals found that their readmission rates fell to 6 percent from 17 to 20 percent nationally.

Keeping an elder out of the hospital for just one day would cover the cost of meals for almost a year. The annual Meals on Wheels cost for one person is $2,765 for 250 days. Yet a one-day stay in the hospital costs about $2,271 according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

This budget proposal is a national embarrassment and disgrace. The reality is the food lines for senior meal programs are growing. More people are living alone, and working families are often stretched to make sure loved ones get the meals they need. An estimated 10,000 older Americans, turn 65 every day, yet since 2010 federal funding for Meals on Wheels hasn’t kept pace with the growing need for meals. We encourage all of you to let your Members of Congress know what you think and ask your elected lawmakers to make sure that funding for Meals on Wheels is not written out of the federal budget.


Sources: “Trump’s Cuts to Meals on Wheels Could Hurt Veterans, Raise Healthcare Costs,” Polly Mosendz, Bloomberg, March 17, 2017. “This is How Much it Costs Meals on Wheels to Feed One Elderly Person for a Year,” Quentin Fottrell, Market Watch, March 17, 2017.