Congress Approves More Funding for Senior Food Aid, But Is It Enough?

The Older Americans Act (or OAA) was up for reauthorization again this month. Advocates for senior citizens proposed a legislation that would reauthorize the OAA, which provides for home-delivered and group meals for anyone 60 and older among other services, such as transportation and in-home care. 

The bill recommends a 7 percent rise in funding for nutrition programs and other vital services in the first year, followed by 6 percent increases in each of the next four years. This means that there will be a total increase of 35 percent in funding for the OAA. It should be noted that this is significantly more than the total 6.8 percent increase of previous three year old reauthorization.

With that significant increase in government funding, “Everyone wins. Taxpayers win. Seniors win. Communities win.” – Ellie Hollander, CEO of Meals on Wheels

The facts

According to Feeding America, the current number of seniors who are food insecure has more than doubled since 2001. 

Nearly 8 percent of Americans 60 and older quietly went hungry in 2017, according to a study released last year by the anti-hunger group Feeding America. That is 5.5 million seniors who don’t have consistent access to enough food for a healthy life, a number that has more than doubled since 2001. 

The repercussions 

Without the regular intake of nutritious food, seniors can become weak, get sick, and are at higher risk of fatalities. They can wind up in hospitals and nursing homes, driving up Medicare and Medicaid costs for taxpayers. A single day in the hospital costs an average of around $2,500, one estimate found, compared with $2,828 to serve a senior Meals on Wheels for a year.

New funding should decrease the number of those on the waiting lists for Meals on Wheels programs. which all told get about 39 percent of their funding from the Older Americans Act, says Ellie Hollander, president and CEO Meals of Wheels America. Nationally, tens of thousands of seniors are on such waitlists. 

Programs with funding falling short

Berks Encore- Nonprofit leader of senior services in Berks County. The services provided by Berks Encore offer support for our community’s older adults and seniors without compromising their independence. Through advocacy, education and referrals, we develop aging-confident individuals to enhance their ability to live well later in life.

LuAnn Oatman, president of Berks Encore, which runs the meal program encompassing the Wernersville area, said demand has grown steadily in her region, with 40 to 50 new referrals a month. With more money, she said, “we’re going to be able to serve more people. That’s the bottom line.”

Meals on Wheels America  – The only federally supported program designed specifically to meet the nutritional and social needs of seniors, yet this successful public-private partnership remains significantly underfunded. 

“So many seniors are dependent on this piece of legislation,” said Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America.

Take action

You can read more about the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act and how to advocate now, click here.

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