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Meals on Wheels faces potential federal budget cut

On March 16, President Donald Trump released his 2018 federal budget proposal, which would eliminate the Community Development Block Grant and the Community Services Block Grant. The money from these grants goes toward state social welfare programs, including Meals on Wheels, a program dedicated to providing nutritious meals to the elderly who can neither afford healthy meals nor are able to travel to food banks.

Following the release of the budget proposal, Meals on Wheels released a statement on its website,

“The need is growing rapidly, and federal funding has not kept pace,” the statement read. “The network is already serving 23 million fewer meals now than in 2005, and waiting lists are mounting in every state. At a time when increased funding is needed, we fear that the millions of seniors who rely on us every day for a nutritious meal, safety check and visit from a volunteer will be left behind.”

Meals on Wheels Yolo County — which has locations in Davis, Winters, Woodland and West Sacramento — serves 353 elderly people daily through its home delivery program. Of those served, 73 are in Davis.

While not all Meals on Wheels organizations receive the grants that Trump proposes to cut, the grants that Meals on Wheels Yolo County receives amounted for 6 percent of its 2016-17 budget. Additionally, the organization is primarily volunteer-based, with about 400 volunteers countywide packaging and delivering the daily meals.

While Meals on Wheels Yolo County has on-site locations at senior centers where people can come to eat lunch, the bulk of its meals are delivered to seniors at noon Mondays through Fridays. Although the on-site locations are not open on holidays, seniors who use the delivery service are still provided with a meal, as the meals are pre-packed and delivered the day before.

Christi Skibbins. Courtesy photo

According to Christi Skibbins, executive director for Meals on Wheels Yolo County, the seniors who receive the meal deliveries are those who cannot travel to get food due to conditions such as dementia, blindness or other physical afflictions.

“They’re vulnerable,” said Cecilia Plascencia, the Meals on Wheels Davis site manager. “They’re old people and I’m just so thankful that this (program) exists.”

Skibbins believes it is vital that seniors continue to receive meals. During her four years working with Meals on Wheels, the number of seniors using the program has increased, to the point where there’s now a 75-person wait list for the county.

“These seniors have tons of health problems and they really need to eat every day and it needs to be nutritious,” Skibbins said.

She said that since Trump’s budget announcement, people have been “inordinately generous” to Meals on Wheels Yolo County. The program raised more than $44,000 on Big Day of Giving, an annual event in the Sacramento region that encourages philanthropy to local nonprofits.

However, Skibbins is unsure how long the community will be able to keep the program afloat.

“This community, this county, is so generous already, I don’t know that they could make up the difference in that big of a way or if they could maybe just for one year,” Skibbins said.

Plascencia echoed this sentiment.

“We’re all concerned,” she said. “We always worry when there’s some changes. The only thing I can say (is) hopefully we get funds from somewhere else.”

In addition to supplying seniors with nutritious foods — each meal provides one-third of the recommended daily nutrient requirement — the Meals on Wheels program also acts as a safety check for the elderly.

Because many of the Meals on Wheels recipients do not have family members nearby, the dropping off of the meals allows the volunteers to ensure that the seniors are OK.

Skibbins said that two to three times a month, a volunteer will report that an individual scheduled to receive a meal did not come to the door and she’ll have to contact the police. Sometimes, officers find that the person fell and didn’t have the strength to get up.

Because the budget will not be approved until Oct. 1, the program remains in a state of limbo. Skibbins said no decision has been made yet regarding whether certain aspects of the program will be cut or downgraded to make up for the potential decrease in funding.

“These particular plans are really vital to folks that were once really productive members of our community and now they can’t be,” she said. “And they really can’t speak up for themselves, so the rest of us have to do that.”

Those interested in staying up to date on the Meals on Wheels Yolo County program can follow its Facebook page or its website at

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