Pinellas Meals on Wheels hopes mission continues after budget cuts

- Five days a week, 1,000 meals are dispatched out of several Pinellas County kitchens to the homes of the county's elderly, via Meals on Wheels.

For some, it's the only food and interaction they'll have that day.

"I see it firsthand. And I ask them, 'What would you do without this meal?' And I had one gentleman say, 'I'd starve," Meals on Wheels volunteer Sandra Narron said Tuesday.

Everett Bowen has trouble walking. He says the delivery is a lifeline.

"It's hard getting up and down and getting around, fixing something to eat. It's nice to have it right to your door," he said.

Under President Trump's proposed budget, funding for Meals on Wheels could slim down substantially. His Budget Blueprint, which was released last week, slashes the Department of Health and Human Service's budget by nearly 18 percent. That agency is responsible for a large part of Meals on Wheel's federal funding.

"We can serve someone for about a year on Meals on Wheels for about $1,700. Or you put them in a nursing home and that's about $70,000. And that's all coming out of our taxpayer money, so why would we want to do that?" Narron asked.

Organizers in Pinellas County say they already operate on a bare bones budget of $1.6 million annually. They say almost all of that is dedicated to food costs, meaning money lost is food off the tables of the elderly.

"We're always scared. We hear about cuts all the time. We don't know what's going to happen," Narron said.

In the meantime, Meals on Wheels is dealing with another shortfall. They're in dire need of volunteer drivers. If you're interested, call 727-584-4846 or visit www.neighborly.org

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