Meals program fights funding cuts, price hikes

June 06, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

Nancy LeMay didn't answer the door when Mike Sims knocked.

Wrapped up in a plaid blanket, she was confined to the hospital bed in her living room.

Sims brought her lunch on an aluminum tray. LeMay struggled to pry open the cardboard top with a fork. Inside was an oval piece of Salisbury steak with onion gravy, a mess of greens and whipped sweet potatoes. She decided it needed salt and vinegar.

"You've got to have a little dab of salt on everything," she said.

LeMay, who lives alone in Junction City, is one of 15 Boyle County residents served by the Meals on Wheels program's county route. Often, the food that Sims and other drivers deliver to her door is the only decent meal she eats five days a week.

But come July, LeMay and the others on the county route may have to figure out how to survive without those meals. Federal funding for the program has been going down. Gas and food costs have been going up. The money may no longer stretch far enough to deliver meals outside Danville.


Program has lost $22,000 in funding the last two years

Jackie Sims, who is Mike Sims' mother, has been the executive director of the Boyle County Senior Citizens Center since 1979. In the last two years, Sims' office has lost $22,000 in funding. What she doesn't get from the federal and state she has to make up locally. County and the city funded the center at the same amount as last year, though Sims had had asked for more.

"I understand, but I might have to look at cutting programs that cost more," Jackie Sims said. "Right now I'm not cutting, but July 1 I'll have to look at it,"

That means the services like the county Meals on Wheels route might have to be dropped.

The route goes to Junction City, Parksville and Perryville. It is 40 miles long and the stops are far between. The high cost of gas has made the daily deliveries much more expensive.

Each meal costs $2.71. The center serves more than 22,000 meals to the homebound and the seniors who come to the center. The county route cost $230 a week, and that's just for the hot meals. Add to the cost of one frozen meal delivered to help seniors make it through the weekend and the cost of gas to get the food there.

Each year the number of people that need meals increases. Hospitals discharge patients quicker. Nursing home funding has dwindled, so those who used to qualify for care there are forced to stay at home. The entire population is aging.

Churches and individuals can sponsor a meal

Churches and individuals can help sponsor a meal or give donations to help. The Presbyterian Church already sponsors one route, and United Way gives the center money. But more is needed if the county program is to stay alive. Sims is encouraging people to contact their federal, state and local lawmakers to help.

"I just can't tell them, 'No,'" Jackie Sims said.

For many older residents, the Meals on Wheels provides much more than just nourishment. For some, that delivery driver may be the only person they see all day. LeMay's son comes in to look after her in the evening, but he works during the day and LeMay is left on her own.

LeMay, like many on the route, is in frail health with limited mobility. Blood clots have left LeMay unable to stand for any period of time. She can walk a little ways, but if she fell she couldn't get back up. That means when visitors do come by, there is usually something that needs to be done.

Mike Sims said that he and the drivers help open bottles, pick up things that have fallen on the floor, and a thousand other little things.

"I can't even tell you how many TVs I've fixed," he said.

Central Kentucky News Articles