MARSHALL - Monica Douglas, senior nutrition program director for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, sums up the prospect of a cut to home-delivered meals in Minnesota with two words: sad and devastating.
The health and welfare bill designed to cut state spending by $1.6 billion over two years is expected to get a vote in the Senate this week as GOP majorities work to pass a plan to erase the $5 billion deficit. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday the bill would cut in half projected state spending on senior nutrition program grants to save $2.68 million.
Douglas said it would be a devastating blow to seniors across Minnesota.
"It affects a lot of people," she said. "If they ended up cutting 50 percent of our state funding we would lose $232,731 and we would have to cut 35,805 meals out of our budget in more than just one location like Marshall."
According to the Minnesota Association of Senior Nutrition Services, Senior Dining and Meals on Wheels served more than 3.3 million meals in 600 sites across Minnesota. Nearly 80 percent of seniors who receive Senior Dining or Meals on Wheels service say they have a more well-balanced diet as a result of the Senior Nutrition program.
In Marshall, more than 7,400 meals were home-delivered in 2010 through the Meals on Wheels program.
To put into perspective how much the meals and daily visits provided by Meals on Wheels means from a cost perspective, Douglas said Lutheran Social Services can feed one individual every day of the year through Meals on Wheels for the same price it would cost that person to stay in a nursing home or hospital for one day.
Moreover, Meals on Wheels visits double as a daily safety check for recipients of meals. The Minnesota Association of Senior Nutrition Services report also said that 80 percent of seniors who receive Meals on Wheels say they were able to remain in their homes longer as a result of the program
"Our people just absolutely count on that meal and daily check-in," she said. "Some of these people are so frail that many would be at risk of having to go to assisted living.
"(Seniors) are getting hit on every aspect and they're the ones who are vulnerable," Douglas added. "Our population is creating more and more people over 60; their Social Security doesn't go up, their Medicare benefits are at risk - they're getting hit on every single front."