For over twenty years I have brought hot meals to seniors and the disabled in my neighborhood. Every Wednesday, I load up the van with coolers of hot and cold food and have lunch with 22 neighbors who would otherwise go without a hot meal.
I pick up my clipboard at the American Red Cross office each week, hoping not to see a name off the list due to a death or hospitalization. But the real hope of the program is knocking on the door of a neighbor's home and seeing the smile on their face when you bring not only a hot meal but a warm smile.
There is Mrs. Libby, who lives in the house behind my daughter's. She is 97 years old. She has lived in that house for over 50 years.
Mrs. Raterman is an invalid. She is 65 years old and is crippled from polio. She is unable to get out of her bed and I deliver her meals through a window in her bedroom.
Mr. and Mrs. Nether both in their 80's. Mr. Nether cares for his wife who is blind and in a wheelchair.
Mr. Stafford is a widower, suffering from Alzheimer's.
Can you help me decide which one of these neighbors to cut off my route? That is the result of the sequester cuts. Meals. Meals to people who can't afford to pay will be cut from the program. Does this make sense to anyone? I understand why it doesn't make sense to Congress. They don't deliver the meals. They don't receive the meals. I wonder how many of them have loved ones or neighbors who depend on Meals On Wheels to bring a hot meal.
Interesting how when air travel was crippled by the sequester, Congress was able to hear themselves think over the din of angry taxpayers and fix it. Unfortunately, the people I serve can't yell loud enough to be heard. So I intend to write my Congressman and ask him to help me decide which one of my neighbors should come off the clip board. Believe me, they will hear me, loud and clear.
All across America, Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver meals to hungry seniors. Sequestration now means senior nutrition has been reduced which means less food for old people. How much? Meals On Wheels Association of America put the loss at 19 million meals. In general, the federal government subsidizes only a portion of the cost of every meal, so whether individual seniors will stop receiving food really depends whether they can pay. Our chapter is no longer able to deliver meals if the client is unable to pay.
Please tell me this is as crazy as it sounds. Congress will act on what impacts their lives, their voters, their chances for re-election. My seniors are impacted by not having a hot meal. Basic human needs. Vote on that, Congress. I will gladly wait longer in an airport, if it means I don't have to decide who will not get a meal this week.
Read more from another driver, Steve Duin, writer for the Oregonian in Portland, OR.
Images: Flickr Roger4336, a hot meal delivered every weekday