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Mar 17, 2017 2:38 PM

Meals on Wheels fears the 'frail' will be most hurt by President Trump's proposed budget

MANCHESTER — The president of the non-profit organization that runs the Meals on Wheels program in Hillsborough County worries that President Donald Trump's potential budget cuts will hurt "fragile" people the most.

The program benefited 960 people in need in Manchester last year, serving 155,000 meals. If Trump's proposed budget passes, it means St. Joseph's Community Services, which runs Meals on Wheels, would suffer a loss of $42,000, according to company President Meghan Brady.

"As concerning as cuts are to a program that feeds people who are frail, hungry and isolated it is also concerning to hear Mr. Mulvaney, White House budget director, say that there’s no proof that these programs produce results," Brady said . "There are studies that show that these programs reduce hunger and improve health."

The loss of these funds would certainly impact their ability to feed as many people that many meals. It is unknown if the proposed federal budget contains cuts to the Older American Act, which would take away a major source of federal funding for the Meals on Wheels program.

"These programs are also very cost effective, it costs about $3,000 a year to be on our Meals on Wheels program, and it costs over $100,000 for one year in the Hillsborough County Nursing Home," Brady pointed out. "Sixty-nine of our clients state that because of this program they are able to remain home, thereby saving the taxpayers significantly."

These cuts not only impact money-driven aspects but cause the people who benefit from program to suffer as well, Brady said.

"The people that we serve tend to be very isolated, and they tend to be low-income, and frail," Brady said.

Many clients of the Meals on Wheels program benefit from the driver's human interaction, as well as the meals, she said. The driver could be the only person they see that day or possibly that week.

"The food itself is very vital," Brady said. "There are other aspects to the program that I’m not sure are fully understood and that safety check is certainly one of them."

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter weighed in Thursday about the problem the cuts could create.

“Today’s budget would even eliminate programs that feed the hungry, including after-school nutrition assistance and Meals on Wheels," Shea-Porter wrote in a statement. "Contrary to the Administration’s outrageous statements at this afternoon’s press briefing, these programs do work, and cutting them is the exact opposite of ‘compassionate.’

"I will be sending the Trump administration just a few of the dozens of peer-reviewed studies that show Meals on Wheels improves seniors’ overall health and nutritional intake and reduces social isolation.”

Saint Joseph's Community Services covers Hillsborough County. In 2016, the program served an average of 1,450 a day and had 2,745 people who had visits.

The company already raises money on their own writing grants and through donations.

If the budget were to pass, the company would be forced to make up a "significant amount" of funds, Brady said.

Shea-Porter is holding a roundtable on Monday to discuss the cuts. It will take place at Strafford Nutrition Program, 25 Bartlett Ave, Suite A, Somersworth, from 11-11:45 a.m.

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