Across Minnesota, Meals on Wheels Programs are Losing Funding
Letters to the Editor
Since 1978, the majority of Minnesota seniors have had access to a Meals on Wheels program. Today, there are many compounding issues that are leading to programs having to close their doors. Four twin cities Meals on Wheels locations have already closed, with the Burnsville location fighting to survive. In Cass County, in 2010 the Senior Nutrition site in Longville closed and in 2013 a dining site in Hackensack closed. Faith in Action for Cass County has stepped in to deliver meals to these communities.
Increasing competition for funding is an issue, along with rising food costs. In Cass County, Lutheran Social Services (LSS) provides a communal and meal delivery program called Senior Nutrition. Senior Nutrition in Minnesota receives the following funding – 6% local site sponsorship, 29% state, 33% federal, and 32% customer donations. With 32% coming from donations, it is easy to see how a decrease in donations can affect an entire program.
Marie Lindahl, manager of the Walker Nutrition Site, stated, “We are funded in part with the Older Americans Act funds administered through the Central Minnesota Council on Aging, but must rely on community support for the rest. Due to the rising cost of food and supplies and stagnant government funding, it is challenging to continue this service in the rural areas, although the need is great”.
Another challenge is getting people signed up; they might be reluctant because they feel that making meals is the last thing they want to give up, or that it is only for the “elderly”. Many people are unaware of the resources available to them, or they are not interested in visiting the communal dining centers or signing up for meal delivery. If there are not people to use the resource, then it will no longer be available.
The Pine River nutrition site is located in the Heartland Apartment building. Manager Dee LeMieux stated, “People have the misconception that you have be a resident to eat here, but it is open to anyone in the community. It is a great way to socialize with neighbors and have a nutritious meal for a low cost”.
Some years are better than others. Lindahl said that when there are sufficient donations, “The money is used to purchase more fresh fruits, vegetables, and treats on holidays that we would not be able to do otherwise”.
All Senior Nutrition meals are made according to nutrition standards. For people 60 plus, there is a suggested donation of $4 per meal. For anyone else in need of a meal, the cost is $7.15. Meals include bread, milk, and dessert and are delivered by friendly volunteers that understand the importance of a healthy meal and frequent check-ins.
For more information on how to receive home meal delivery, volunteer, or donate, contact LSS Senior Nutrition at 218-587-2921 (Pine River) 218-547-4181 (Walker) or become a Meals on Wheels volunteer driver with Faith in Action for Cass County by calling us at 866-675-5435. Faith in Action is “Neighbors Helping Neighbors”.
Kaila Forster: AmeriCorps Vista serving with Faith in Action