Monday, March 20, 2017

Meals on Wheels Under Attack

photo by Roger W - Sarasota Meals on Wheels / flickr


Looking over the proposed National Budget I have studied some of the places the Administration plans to cut. The list is long and alarming. School lunches for the needy, National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities, dismantling Americorp, heating subsidies for the poor. Legal Aid for all 50 states. Job training programs will be cut. Block grants that help states with daycare and adoption assistance. But scanning that long list I stopped reading at Meals on Wheels which is also on the hit list. Meals on Wheels?

Volunteers have been delivering meals to older people since the 1950’s—67 years. Last year 2.4 million people received these meals. In protest to the cuts in this program in particular—I discovered that there are 5,000 Meals on Wheels projects in all fifty states. 

The Budget Director is a South Carolinian, Mike Mulvaney, In defense of these cuts in these programs—and Meals on Wheels in particular he responded, “We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good…Meals on Wheels sounds great—again, that’s a state decision to fund that particular portion too. But to take federal money and give it to the states and say, ‘Look we want to give you money for programs that don’t work—I can’t defend that anymore.’”Huh?

Unlike Mr. Mulvaney I know a little something about the Meals on Wheels program. When we l llved in Memphis my wife and a friend went into some of the poorest and roughest part of that city. She came home talking about some of the people she saw every week. They were poor. They were old and lonely. Many of these citizens who lived alone and saw no one all week except the “Meals on Wheels Ladies.” She told me that the visits were just as important as the food. But that for so many of these folk this was the only nutritious meals they had all day. 

Later when we moved to Birmingham—the AIDS crisis was epidemic and scary in the mid-nineties. So my wife began to deliver Meals on Wheels to people HIV positive. Many of them had been abandoned by their parents. Most knew that their chances of living were slim. Just to see a friendly face, especially bringing a hot meal meant much to those whom the larger community felt were untouchable.  Sometimes my wife would call a Doctor the person needed to see. There were occasions when she would call the person’s Social Worker to handle a problem. The Meals on Wheels program opens the door to help in many ways. Thank goodness we have dealt with the AIDS crisis in ways that have helped many live because of the availability of new drugs.

Mr. Mulvaney must not know that we cannot measure such programs but their success. Not showing any results? I dare the Budget Director to follow around some of these volunteers and see how wrong he is. I appreciate Senator Graham coming to the defense of Meals on Wheels. He said, “I think rebuilding the military we all want to do. But you're not going too rebuild the military by cutting  Meals on Wheels.” Only 35% of this program is funded by the federal government and it is such a tiny part of this whole budget.

The Meals on Wheels program is a symbol of many of the cuts in this proposed budget that will weaken the compassion that has run through the nation’s budgets for many years. People all over the world have looked to this country as a place that cares for people. This is one of the reasons that so many would love to come here to live and work.

In the last parable Jesus gave he said,”I was hungry and you gave me food…” But it looks like in 2017 in the richest country in the world we might just heed the challenge of Jesus. “Inasmuch,” he said, “As you do it unto the least of these you do  it unto me.”

Someone has said that if you open up your check book and study what you paid and when, you will begin to see what your priorities are. I think as we study this new proposed budget we will also begin to see what kind of a people we truly are. 

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com



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