"Meals On Wheels" Alachua County
It isn't an appetizing thought. The need for help in feeding senior citizens is rising, but government funding is falling.
Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe joined hundreds of other mayors across the nation today in delivering meals to home bound seniors through the "Meals On Wheels" program. Now those who run the program are looking elsewhere for help in paying for it.
Yvonne Johnson said, "You know when they come knocking on the door that you're gonna have a good lunch." Yvonne & Jack Johnson of Gainesville are in their seventies. For the last three years they've been getting Meals on Wheels through Eldercare of Alachua County.
Jack Johnson said, "We can't stand up over there at the stove and cook and we get a hot meal once a day...and that makes all the difference in the world." It costs around $120 to feed one senior in Alachua County a meal like this five days a week for a month.
Executive Director of Eldercare of Alachua County Anthony Clarizio said, "The Meals On Wheels program has the home bound delivery piece as well as the congregate meal sites and those two numbers combined allow us to deliver meals to 300 people on a daily basis."
There are 16 different delivery routes handled mostly by volunteers. Along with a meal and snack, which provides 1/3 of the senior's required daily nutrition, the deliveries include a well-ness check.
Meals On Wheels is completely funded through grants and donations. But because of government budget cuts, more will have to come from the community. Clarizio said, "We have to become less dependent on government funding, just because the state of the union is such that it is, we have to be able to diversify our funding sources."
Two more challenges: rising gas prices and the waiting list for getting into the program. It's almost 700 people. Clarizio said, "These are individuals who have worked their entire lives and who for the first time many of them in their 80's find that they need help. That number continues to rise day after day and year after year."
After spending the morning delivering meals in Gainesville, Mayor Craig Lowe, emphasized the importance of community wide support for Meals On Wheels. Lowe said, "This puts a personal face on the issue. So that we see that actually these programs do impact real people."
People like Jack & Yvonne. Who after 56 years of marriage, are still enjoying life at home together. Yvonne Johnson said, "It just something we look forward to every day and you know you can depend on them."
For more information on Meals On Wheels in Alachua County, visit http://www.shands.org/public/programs/eldercare/
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