Meals on Wheels recipients don’t question its value
March 20, 2017
Imagine for a second your wife has just had brain surgery. You have to go to work every day but don't want to leave her alone all day and don't want to put her in a care facility. What options do you have?
Rifle resident John Curran faced that tough choice last year, and his wife, Wendy, since then has been receiving a meal each weekday through Meals on Wheels while he is at work.
Without Meals on Wheels, Wendy thinks "at this point in time, I'd be sitting here starving to death."
Meals on Wheels and its value was put in the spotlight last week when White House budget director Mick Mulvaney gave a preliminary outline of President Donald Trump's 2018 budget, which included cuts for the Department of Housing and Urban Development of about $6.2 billion. Almost half of that $6.2 billion would come from cutting the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which provides money for a variety of community development and anti-poverty programs, including some for Meals on Wheels. At a news conference Mulvaney brought up Meals on Wheels as one of the programs of questionable effectiveness.
"We spend $150 billion on CDBG since the 1970s that aren't showing any results," he said. "We can't spend money on programs just because they sound good. And Meals on Wheels sounds great — again, that's a state decision to fund that particular portion. But to take the 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."
While it's unclear what the impact on Meals on Wheels would be from a cut to block grants and a proposed 18 percent cut in the Health and Human Services Department, whose Older Americans Act Nutrition Program also provides some money for Meals on Wheels, Mulvaney's comments stirred spirited defense of the meals program.
Kaaren Peck, director of volunteer services at Grand River Health, which runs the program in western Garfield County, said that as far as results go, recent research from Brown University said that every dollar spent on a Meals on Wheels program saves $50 in Medicare costs.
She also noted that Garfield County seniors should not worry about the service being endangered, whatever happens with the federal budget.
"Grand River Meals on Wheels is going strong thanks to the phenomenal community support and the base support of Grand River Health," Peck said. "Grand River Meals on Wheels does not receive any federal funding, the program is funded by Grand River Health (for the past 41 years) and is supported by the amazing community-based donations and area grants."
Talking with local seniors who benefit from the program, it's clear that the service fills a big need.
"It's very effective," said Don Dorrell, who receives five meals a week at his ranch with his wife, JoAnn. "If we had to drive into town twice a day to eat, we couldn't stay at our ranch anymore."
The Dorrells built their house 44 years ago atop Helmer Gulch in Rifle.
"It sure helps a lot, we don't have to worry about what we have to do for lunch," said JoAnn. JoAnn had been the go-to cook between the two, but when she broke her hip a couple of years ago her cooking days were over.
"I don't want to fall again and break anything," she said.
Don had always done all the outdoors work and left the cooking to JoAnn. With Meals on Wheels, they don't have to worry about where their next meal will come from and only have to go into town a much more manageable once a week or so.
Grand River Meals on Wheels currently has 75 drivers covering five different routes throughout Garfield County. The program goes from Parachute to South Canyon and is considered small nationally as it serves less than 100 meals per day.
"Where we might be most affected is if other Meals on Wheels programs are cut," Peck said. "There's currently a waiting list for New Castle and Silt; we just don't have enough drivers."
Valley View Hospital has a Meals on Wheels program for Glenwood Springs, and Judy Martin, senior programs manager for Garfield County, hosts congregate meals for seniors throughout Garfield County.
"I really question the claim that MOW doesn't show any results," Peck said. "The program is essential for homebound seniors, disabled individuals, and as a tool for recovery. Without Meals on Wheels there are a lot of people in the area that would be forced to move into a long-term care center or senior center."
Grand River Health is still looking for sponsors for its April 1 fundraiser, the Grand River Gallop, a 5K and 2K run/walk. Those looking to donate or for more information can call Dee Warwick at 970-625-6214.
This week Grand River Meals on Wheels is having its Community Champions week, during which elected officials and hometown heroes will be delivering meals. On Wednesday, George Rossman, field representative for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colorado, will be delivering meals for the program.