January 13, 2016

Change means fewer meals

MealsBob Ellis/staff photographer
Meals On Wheels driver Gary Selover pushes a cartload of hot meals that he’s delivering at the senior high rise at 42 Church St. in Cortland.

Staff Reporter

The Cortland Nutrition Program has shown a steady decrease in the number of meals made in its programs since 2011.
Has hunger in the area decreased? No.
The program, which provides meals to senior centers, made 152,613 meals in 2011, dropping to 128,264 in 2014.The Area Agency on Aging provides meals to three senior centers in the area as well as to 225 home-delivered Meals on Wheels recipients,
Why the decline?
Elizabeth Haskins, director of the Cortland County Area Agency on the Aging, said that after an audit by the state, the program refocused on its eligibility. Previously, meals were provided to both the homebound senior and caretaker through Meals on Wheels, as well as allowing visitors at senior centers who also receive meals, to take home a to-go box.
The agency had to stop giving out the to-go boxes as it was not permitted under health code regulation. The home meals, under the Older Americans Act, are meant to cover homebound people over 60.
“Sometimes a caregiver is provided a meal, it depends on the different circumstances,” Haskins said Tuesday.
She said dementia, bedbound, or elderly caring for elderly plays a factor on whether a caregiver would also receive a meal. Meals on Wheels was previously giving all caretakers a meal, which was against regulations for funding.
Under the Older Americans Act, Meals on Wheels is funded based on suggested donations from recipients: $3 for a home-delivered meal and $4 for a senior who lives in a senior center who receives a hot meal. Meals on Wheels also provides hot lunches, a bag supper and frozen meals for the weekend.
The real cost is $9 per meal, subsidized by federal, state and local dollars.
Stan Butts, 63, started getting Meals on Wheels delivery a year ago after a severe back injury made it difficult to get around. He gets more than food out of it:
“Once I forgot to call to tell them I wouldn’t be home to receive the meal due to a doctor’s appointment,” he said Tuesday. “Not only did they call me on my cell, but they called the house hours after I was home just to make sure I was all right.”
That’s precious security, especially in the winter when venturing outdoors is difficult.
Meals on Wheels drivers — seven paid and four volunteers in Cortland County — are trained through the Area Agency on Aging to look for key behavioral signs, and report back to the agency if anything is out of the ordinary.

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