Meals on Wheels and the “Skinny Budget”

Meals on Wheels America

Over the past months President Donald Trump has proposed the so-called “skinny budget” that has left many lawmakers and parts of the American public outraged. With a clear strategy in place, the Trump administration is proposing a major increase in Veteran Affairs, Homeland Security, and of course Defense while cutting funding for several other national programs.

While there are a lot of major gut punches on this proposed budget cut, the big one that seems to leave everyone up in arms is the cut in funding to Meals on Wheels. For those who don’t know Meals on Wheels, it is a fantastic organization that in simple terms delivers meals to the elderly.

Although there is a lot more that goes into it that meets the eye. Meals on Wheels serves 2.4 million seniors each year. “It is really a lifeline to enable them to live out their lives in their own homes. It allows them to be more independent, safe, and healthy,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. For someone to think it is just meal delivery is not looking at the full picture and empathy that Meals on Wheels has for our senior citizens. Aside from getting a nutritious meal these seniors are getting a friendly visit, and a safety check that they count on.

From the taxpayer’s perspective it’s a really successful program, Meals on Wheels has proven that a public-private partnership can work. Every dollar of federal funding that comes is leveraged with up to $3 in matching funds. These proposed budget cuts are no change of pace to Ellie and Meals on Wheels America.

“After my first day as CEO in 2013 there was something called Sequestration, where there was a government imposed cut across the board for government programs. It was roughly a $50 million across the board cut for Meals on Wheels. Now four years later it is starting to feel a little bit like Déjà Vu all over again,” said Hollander.

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The Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts are a huge slash across the board – the EPA, Agriculture, Labor, Justice, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Education, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Energy, Treasury, NASA, and of course State and other development programs. These are relatively massive cuts, while increasing the defense budget by a ridiculous $52.3 billion, Homeland Security by $2.8 billion and Veteran Affairs by $4.4 billion.

These massive cuts have prompted such a reaction from the public that donations for Meals on Wheels America were up 500% in the days immediately follow the budget release. “We have seen such a big jump in generosity of individuals who want to make sure that we’ll have a boost in our advocacy efforts to protect that federal funding. It has been extraordinary to see the number of people who have wanted to help, volunteer, advocate or donate to help make a difference,” Hollander concluded. The seniors that Meals on Wheels helps are really at-risk, they often live on the brink of poverty, have multiple chronic conditions, physical and/or mental impairment. These are the people that need help for the basic tasks that the rest of us take for granted.

When Mick Mulvaney, the office director of the Office of Management and Budget called the proposed skinny budget compassionate, the public was outraged, including myself. Mulvaney rationalized his compassionate comment by saying the Trump administration is cutting funding to programs for wasteful programs or programs that simply do not work.

“My first thought was that sure does not describe Meals on Wheels,” Ellie Hollander said. “I believe that compassion may be in the eye of the beholder and I was happy to see the public’s reaction. These folks are not likely going to break out of their situation; they’re not going to go back into the job market. They’re retired, they’re 75 and older and their economic circumstances are not going to change. So we think that Meals on Wheels is an extraordinary compassionate program, and compassionate for the millions who rely on it and compassionate for tax payers,” said Hollander.

Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels is a program that has proven it’s effective. 45 years ago, President Nixon signed this law into effect with a democratically controlled congress that gave birth in a sense to the whole senior nutrition network, which you know as Meals on Wheels. Now 45 years later Meals on Wheels is doing exactly what it was designed to do.

In an effort to help educate America about what Meals on Wheels is really about, the national organization has partnered with the Ad Council to launch the ”America, Let’s Do Lunch” volunteer recruitment campaign. The website – AmericaLetsDoLunch.org –helps make volunteering and getting involved an easier process. As a society there is a lot we can do, we can sit back and allow these proposed budget cuts to hold programs like Meals on Wheels hostage or we can try and to help in anyway we can. Speak out to an elected official, donate, hold a fund-raising event or join the dedicated millions who volunteer with Meals on Wheels.


To learn more about taking action, volunteering or donating to Meals on Wheels, please visit their website.