The Washington Senior Center is already making plans for proposed funding cuts for its home-delivered meals program.
The Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee last week proposed eliminating funding of the program after the House approved the addition of approximately $1.5 million in its version of the budget.
The Washington Senior Center delivers an average of 65 to 70 meals per day, five days per week. It is a separate program from the hospital’s program, which is privately funded, said Debbie Steagall, senior center administrator.
“This has affected us already this year alone when the sequestering went through,” Steagall said. “We’re looking at losing 9 percent of funding, which is almost a quarter of a million dollars throughout the Mid-East Area Agency,” she said.
The Mideast area includes Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties.
In addition to four in-town routes, the Washington Senior Center has a rural route, which delivers to New Haven, Berger and outlying towns. A paid driver runs the rural route, while the in-town routes are done by volunteers.
“We’re looking at putting some of our farthest outlying clients on frozen meals. Instead of delivering hot meals each day we would deliver five meals once each week,” Steagall said, adding that the change would help with mileage and maintenance of the van, as well as save on payment for the route.
Several years ago, clients who qualified could get frozen meals for weekend or evening (second) meals, Steagall said. Previous budget cuts forced the center to eliminate the program unless the clients could pay for the meals.
Steagall noted that agencies all over the country, and quite a few in Missouri, have gone to delivering frozen meals because of the cost.
The center suggests a donation of $3.25 per meal, however, clients can pay whatever they can afford.
In January, donations averaged 90 cents per meal. February’s donations averaged 82 cents per meal and March’s donations came in at $1.30 per meal, Steagall said.
A five-pack of frozen meals costs about $15, whereas the cost per hot meal averages about $7 per meal when overhead, insurance and salaries are factored in.
Delivering meals at the beginning of the week, though, is not ideal. Steagall said the agency is trying to prevent frozen meals from happening.
“One of the biggest advantages (to delivering hot meals daily) is that we’re kind of checking up on the client to make sure they’re all right,” Steagall said. “For a lot of clients we may be the only person they see each day, or sometimes for days on end.”
Steagall said the agency is still in the process of gathering information and doesn’t know when frozen meals might start.
The Mid-East Area Agency on Aging has a fund-raising expo to help fund home delivery. Individual centers also have activities to help fund hot meals, which Steagall said has always been in place.
“With sequestering, it always affects the people it hurts the worst, those with lower income, seniors and people who aren’t able to do for themselves,” she said. “The company as a whole is doing everything it can to deliver hot meals to as many people as we can.”
At any time people can mail donations to the senior center and note that it is for the meals on wheels program and it will go directly to the program, Steagall said.
Another program the senior center has is for local businesses or organizations to sponsor meals.
“This is a way to help keep the money in our community,” she said.
Businesses can donate weekly, monthly or one time and can provide funds or raw goods for the meal. Details will be worked out with each organization.
Steagall noted that meals cannot be home-cooked and must be prepared at a state health-inspected facility.
For more information, people may call Steagall, 636-239-3374.
Donations may be mailed to the Washington Senior Center, 1459 West Fifth St., Washington, MO 63090.