SOLANO COUNTY (CBS13) — Some Solano County senior citizens could be going hungry as Meals on Wheels struggles to meet growing demand.
Nationwide, the program has seen a shift in funding, taking crucial dollars away from its home delivery service.
Alice Freeman, 95 of Suisun, has been a Meals on Wheels client for 15 years. She says she counts on the program and looks forward to each delivery, not just for the food, but for the company.
Freeman said, “The ones that deliver mine are just so patient with me and talk to me. I like humans, and they’re real sweet.”
Meals on Wheels has been feeding the elderly in Solano County since 1977, bringing one meal a day to 650 seniors who don’t have regular access to food and can no longer get around.
Meals on Wheels driver Keith Davis said, “These are a lot of times the most vulnerable people in our society.”
For the first time in seven years, the program is unable to deliver to any new clients.
“It just feels morally wrong,” said the program’s Executive Director Laurie Hartmann.
Hartmann says the problem has become urgent. In just the last month, more than 100 seniors have been put on a waitlist.
Hartmann says it’s the result she says of a shift in federal funding that cut $80,000 from the program’s home delivery service and put it toward the program’s congregate deliveries, which offers meals at senior centers. Along with a cut in funding, Hartmann says the need for in-home deliveries is growing quickly.
“We know for many of our seniors; this is their only meal of the day. They’re not getting breakfast or dinner. They’re only getting what we bring them.”
Deliveries have also dropped from five to three days a week. Hartmann is now calling on the community to help make sure seniors don’t go hungry.
“We’re looking to the community, businesses, to individuals. Every little bit is going to help.”
Freeman says the meals are crucial, but the program is about much more than that.
‘It’s nice to know that they’re coming, for the company and the nourishment.”
It costs $35 to feed a senior citizen for one week through the program and $1,800 annually.