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Program will cut meals to 23 seniors

Meals on Wheels funding not enough to cover demand
By: Michelle Miller-Carl, Journal News Editor
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Susan Hartle enrolled her mother, Alberta Hartle, in the Meals on Wheels program so the 92-year-old could have a nutritious meal when she was gone at work all day. “I came home one time and found her sleeping with the pot burning on the stove,” Susan Hartle said Thursday. “I got concerned about her fixing anything on her own.” But starting next week, Hartle will be one of 23 Placer County seniors dropped from the nutrition program as the demand for meals has outpaced available funding. Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to 400 mostly homebound seniors throughout the county, will have to serve 748 fewer meals each month to balance its budget. “These are people who, for some, it’s their only meal of the day,” said Candace Roeder, executive director of Seniors First, which administers the Senior Nutrition Program in Placer County. “Now we have to take the neediest of the needy, and find out who is neediest.” Although the program also receives grants, $200,000 of its state funding was axed in the budget signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September, Roeder said. That loss of funding as well as operating on credit while the state budget was delayed are finally catching up with the Senior Nutrition Program, which is serving more seniors than it can afford to, she said. “Demand has increased, that’s one of the things the economy is doing,” Roeder said. “But our income hasn’t kept up with demand. We need another $100,000 for the year.” Although the suggested donation for meals is $3, the actual cost is closer to $6 or $7, said Brenda Cathey, Meals on Wheels coordinator. Reimbursing volunteer delivery drivers for mileage also adds to the expense of the program, she said. Cathey said 23 seniors will need to be cut and no new sign-ups to the program will be accepted. Seniors are accepted into the program based on their ability to provide their own meal. “There will be a careful screening to see who can get by and who can’t get by (without meals),” Cathey said. If seniors are able to drive to the store for food or have someone who checks on them regularly, they may be dropped, she said. Those dropped will be notified within the next couple weeks. Susan Hartle of Auburn learned this week that her mother, Alberta Hartle, would be eliminated from the program because Susan lost her job in sales and is home a lot more now. Susan Hartle offered to pay a larger donation to keep the valuable service for her mother, who has trouble hearing and is losing her vision. She worries her mother would have problems making her own meals when she finds a job. “Unfortunately, if I go back to work, that means it causes problems,” she said. “I’ll be wondering how she’s going to eat.” The Journal’s Michelle Miller-Carl can be reached at michellem@goldcountrymedia.com ---------- How to help Donations can be sent to Seniors First Meals on Wheels, 11566 D Ave., Auburn, CA 95603.