Meals on Wheels: Federal Funding at Risk

Meals on Wheels Takoma Park/Silver Spring has raised concerns about the potential risk to their federal funding.

The nonprofit organization reports that Takoma Park’s food insecurity rate has increased by 150%, or 2.5 times higher than before the pandemic. This rise is even more pronounced in Long Branch and Langley Park, where it is 4.5 times higher, according to the Capital Area Food Bank and analyzed by Crossroads Community Food Network.

While Meals on Wheels Takoma Park/Silver Spring is available to provide up to 10 meals weekly to seniors, individuals with compromised immune systems, those with physical challenges, or those recovering from an illness or injury, the potential program cuts combined with a government shutdown put people at risk of not receiving their meals.

“President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy came up with a compromise that specifies no increase for the legislation that funds nutritional programs, the Older Americans Act. Doesn’t sound so bad, but it actually translates to a cut since it doesn’t allow for current record-breaking inflation rates for food,” said Ruth Masterson, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels Takoma Park/Silver Spring. “This is a toxic combination leaving our homebound neighbors in dire straits. Our phone is ringing off the hook as we are facing having to have the first waitlist in our organization’s history, even though we know hunger doesn’t have a waitlist.”

The independent nonprofit helps residents in Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Langley Park, Chillum, and Adelphi, providing important support to homebound neighbors in these areas and allowing them to stay healthy and independent at home. A recent report from the Capital Area Food Bank shows that 32 percent of people in the Greater Washington area faced food insecurity between May 2022 and April 2023. This is only a slight decrease from 33 percent in the previous year, according to a press release.

In addition to receiving essential food deliveries, clients also benefit from the personal interaction with volunteers and drivers.

“About one-third of our funding comes from government sources and the rest is community support; with the threat of a government shutdown and cuts to nutritional programs like ours, that leaves our neighbors hungry, unserved, and isolated,” said Masterson. “As we step up to support our network during an intense funding battle in Congress, we’re extremely worried about our ability to serve: real impact on real people in our community.”

During the spring, Meals on Wheels Takoma Park/Silver Spring hosted policymakers, including a representative from Rep. Jamie Raskin’s office, to assist with packaging, delivering meals, and meeting clients. The aim was to ensure that local and national policymakers comprehended the necessity of nutritional programs like Meals on Wheels.

Currently, the Takoma Park/Silver Spring location, along with other Meals on Wheels organizations nationwide, is collaborating to encourage volunteers and the public to reach out to their congress members to help #SaveLunch.

The #SaveLunch national writing campaign aims to encourage key members of Congress on relevant committees to safeguard funding for senior nutrition programs. The campaign involves writing personal stories and notes on paper plates and will continue until Congress passes an Appropriations bill.

“Anyone who wants to write #SaveLunch along with a personal note on a paper plate and provide them to us is invited to do so — or stop by our kitchen at 7410 New Hampshire Ave. in Takoma Park, where we’ve got a station set up,” said Masterson.

To learn how to support Meals on Wheels Takoma Park/Silver Spring by advocating, volunteering, or contributing, go to mowtakoma.org.

Graphic Courtesy of Meals on Wheels Takoma Park/Silver Spring

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