In his preliminary 2018 federal budget, released to Congress last week, President Trump proposed deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, including programs that support Meals on Wheels, a national program that delivers food to homebound individuals – many elderly – who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals.
However, according to Hallie Shapiro, director of outreach and community engagement for the Roosevelt Island Senior Center, which currently delivers meals to homebound Island seniors, the proposed budget cuts, if approved, will likely not impact the program here.
The Carter Burden Center for the Aging, which runs the Senior Center, delivers weekday and weekend meals to approximately 18 seniors on Roosevelt Island, says Shapiro. But, because their program is not funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they are currently not at risk for being defunded.
Meals on Wheels is a name often used generically to refer to home-delivered meals programs, not all of which are actually named “Meals on Wheels.” The oldest and largest national organization is Meals on Wheels America, which supports the more than 5,000 community-based senior nutrition organizations across the country. Some of these programs rely on community-development block grants through HUD for funding – and it’s these grants that appear to be in danger from the proposed $3 billion in cuts.
In New York City, however, Meals on Wheels is supported by the Department for the Aging (DFTA) through a public-private partnership with Citymeals on Wheels, an organization that does not receive funding from HUD. According to Beth Shapiro, executive director of Citymeals on Wheels (no relation to Hallie Shapiro), in 2008, her group delivered over 2.1 million meals to 17,713 frail, aged New Yorkers in every borough, including here on Roosevelt Island.
However, Shapiro points out that the full impact of budget cuts is still unknown. “Because the budget outline released today lacks many details on individual agency spending, we do not know exactly how this overall cut would affect most Older Americans Act programs. This is a preliminary budget which has to go through both houses of Congress and all committees,” Shapiro wrote in a statement emailed to The WIRE.
“As always, Citymeals is working actively to ensure that our elected officials and the current administration appreciate the critical importance of our services to the frail aged in New York City and across the country,” Shapiro added. “We urge all those who are concerned about these potential cuts to let their Representatives in Congress know how vital Meals on Wheels is to our homebound elderly neighbors, our families, and communities.”