Elderly Black Community Deeply Impacted by Meals on Wheels Cuts in Funding
HOUSTON- For millions of Americans, Meals on Wheels is the difference between remaining in their own homes and needing to relocate to a nursing facility.
Ms. Mildred J
No one understands this more than Mildred J. who calls Meals on Wheels a real life saver.
She has received Meals on Wheels for the last seven years and it has been a great blessing.
“I enjoy my meals,” Mildred said. “They’re not over-seasoned – they’re just right for me (and) They give me good nutrition every day.”
In addition to meals, Mildred has no transportation, does not drive and has some difficulty getting around her home and her kitchen
Sometimes her sons are able to help with errands, but it is the Meals on Wheels driver that faithfully checks in on Mildred’s safety and welfare when he brings her daily meals.
“I use a walker or a cane around the house,” she said. “I still need to sit down a lot. Fortunately, we talk at the door – he knows I’m a big Rockets fan, so we always talk about sports.” Mildred chuckled.
But the bigger picture reveals one of the main reasons Meals of Wheels is a valuable asset in the African-American community.
“I want to stay here in my home, and Meals on Wheels helps me to be independent,” Mildred said.
For more than 30 years, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston has helped nurture independence by providing Meals on Wheels for Houston’s elderly and disabled.
Interfaith Ministries’ Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston program provides a home-delivered meal to home bound seniors over 60 and their spouses. The program also delivers breakfast and weekend meals to the most frail and isolated seniors. This nutritional support helps seniors stay independent and in their own homes.
Real People, Real Numbers
It’s one of three programs operated along with Refugee Services and Interfaith Relations and is one of the largest of its kind in the country.
The program serves 4000 clients daily in Houston. Of those, 1,991 of those elderly residents are African-American and live in places like Acres Homes, Fifth Ward, Third Ward, Kashmere, Studewood, Sunnyside, Alief and areas of East Houston and Greenspoint.
Some of the African-Americans being served in those areas include: 260 from Acres Home; 904 clients in Fifth Ward; 363 in East Houston-Greenspoint; 178 in Studewood; 125 in Third Ward; 116 in Sunnyside; 120 in Alief and 121 in Spring Branch to name a few.
Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston also is able to serve seniors with the help of partners like the Harris County Area Agency on Aging and Harris County Community Services Department, and IM reach out to the other remote areas of Harris County serving seniors.
In 1955, the Houston Council of Churches launched IM’s predecessor organization, the Church Welfare Bureau, to organize the Protestant community to minister to those in need.
In 1964, the Bureau was reorganized as Protestant Charities of Houston, a group that was joined and strengthened by the Jewish community.
Officially chartered as Houston Metropolitan Ministries in 1969, IM has been a leading force in bringing together people of all faiths to serve people in need in the greater Houston area.
It was renamed Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston in 1992 to reflect support from increasingly diverse faith traditions.
Food fears and insecurity among is one of the highest in the country, and the cuts could have drastic and possibly deadly consequences. However federal budget cuts threaten to curtail services to the elderly and disabled – a great concern for Mildred and others who depend on Meals on Wheels daily.
President Trump’s budget calls for the elimination of one program that some of the nation’s 5,000 Meals on Wheels groups rely on: Community development block grants, a $3 billion program that started in the Ford administration to give states and cities more flexibility in how they combat poverty.
Across the country, the group provided approximately 219 million meals to 2.4 million seniors in 2016 . The program also feed 500,000 veterans every year.
Trump’s slimmed down budget still needs to be finalized and then pass through the rigors of Congress before becoming law.
The budget intend to strip down community-development and anti-poverty programs to make way for higher defense and anti-immigration cutting $3 billion from the Community Development Block Grant program, which supports a variety of feeding programs, including Meals on Wheels, in many states across the country.
Harris County Elderly Trapped in The Middle
What that means in Harris County is the possibility of a cutback in services and increased waiting lists for the food.
“It amounts to a severe lack of understanding of the value of the program to the community,” said Warren Wenner, Interfaith Ministries Director of Meals on Wheels. “We serve up friendship and nutrition in both settings and through deliveries directly to seniors’ homes. Meals on Wheels is making communities stronger, safer and more self-sufficient. That is something we can all be proud of.”
Elevena B who benefits from the service, is one of 15 Meals on Wheels seniors receiving meals in Houston who is 100 or older and is concerned about the cuts.
She said she would not be able to make it without the food and friendly fellowship that comes her way daily in the form of the Meals on Wheels driver and case workers.
“I pray every day for the people who work for Meals on Wheels. My driver is real patient with me. I am slow to come to the door and she helps me by opening the door and waiting for me,” she said. “She helps me carry things or move things around. I am always praying for her.”
Seniors Savings and Safety Value
According to a MealsOnWheels.org, study after study shows that a nutritious meal, a friendly visit and safety check help the elderly cope with three of the biggest threats of aging: hunger, isolation and loss of independence.
Research also proves that when seniors have the right support, they gain greater quality of life, need fewer hospital stays and live longer.
Without support from programs like Meals on Wheels, millions of seniors are forced to prematurely trade their homes for nursing facilities.
Providing a senior meals for an entire year is less expensive than roughly the same cost as spending one day in the hospital or ten days in a nursing home.
The public-private partnership supporting the Meals on Wheels movement is one of the most effective models in America. It expenses enables seniors to remain more healthy and independent in their own homes, where they want to be, avoiding far more costly healthcare alternatives, such as unnecessary trips to the emergency room, hospitalizations and nursing home placements cuts Medicaid and Medicare costs-saving $34 billion a year.
Also, at the heart of this community solution are more than two million volunteers who keep the wheels turning in urban, suburban and rural communities across America.
The feelings of appreciation are mutual between drivers and clients in their daily interactions.
“I wouldn’t take nothing to trade her,” Elevena says of her Meals on Wheels driver. “She is quality! She helps me and sometimes if I can’t get to the door she comes in and puts my meal on the table. And if she can’t find me, she’ll hunt me down. Just yesterday they accidentally forgot my milk and she come and find me to give me my quart of milk. She’s real nice.”
Program Here For Communities
Meals on Wheels provides the ability for virtually every community across the country to efficiently and compassionately care for their aging neighbors.
Millions of American families in America sleep better at night and can continue their daily routines and responsibilities because they know that Meals on Wheels is keeping a watchful eye over their aging loved ones.
Program There For Families
“It provides real value and peace of mind for loved ones near and far,” said IM Operations Manager Henry Hammond. “Our drivers are saving lives daily. Without us, many seniors would be isolated and have no contact with people.”
When other competing responsibilities make it impossible or difficult for families to be there, Meals on Wheels can make sure our parents, grandparents and others important in our lives are cared for, and that someone is there to raise a red flag if something doesn’t seem just right, Hammond said.
By: Darwin Campbell