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Meals On Wheels Facing Tough Economic Times: New Dietary Guidelines Making Budgets Tight
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Meals on Wheels Facing Tough Economic Times: New Dietary Guidelines Making Budgets Tight

Meals on Wheels and other nutritional programs across the nation are struggling to keep their clients fed. Most are faced with problems in their budgets as well as the loss of money and volunteers needed to keep their programs going. Now, new federal nutritional guidelines may be putting even more of a strain on those programs.

Every change in federal nutritional standards means a change in the way that these and other programs are ran. It changes the way that the foods are stored and delivered. It also changes the way that they are prepared. Not only do these changes impact programs like Meals on Wheels which serves meals to the elderly and the disabled, but school lunch programs as well. In some cases, Meals on Wheels volunteers are the only people who have contact with an elderly person, but now that contact can be in danger. To battle budgeting crunches, some programs have dropped the number of days that hot foods are prepared and delivered, with frozen meals sent in for the other days. Most have ended Saturday deliveries to save money and few deliver on any of the holidays.

Traditionally, Meals on Wheels brought a hot Thanksgiving meal to their clients but this year, a frozen meal was brought in addition to the meal delivered on Tuesday. Some programs also bring in emergency frozen meals for severe weather. But, Meals on Wheels is currently facing major issues including growing waiting lists and shrinking budgets. Honolulu, Hawaii, for instance, nearly one hundred people are on the waiting list for meals. That program needs over $170,000 to serve those on the list. Some programs get money through traditional methods such as fundraising and donations while others rely heavily on government grants to keep their doors open. Most use volunteers to package and then to deliver the food.

New federal nutritional guidelines are set by the US Department of Agriculture and impacts the programs for the elderly as well as other programs in schools and other institutions. Recent changes have included reducing the amount of salt that is allowed in each meal as well as required more lean protein, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. Each guideline change can impact the way foods are stored, cooked, packaged and then delivered which in turn can have a direct affect on the budgeted amount and the number of people that can be served by that program. Rising food costs are also impacting these programs across the nation.


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