Meal programs for the elderly are often underfunded at the best of times, but when the pandemic hit Arizona and other states, the demand for nutritional assistance grew rapidly, pushing the budgets of many groups. social services at the breaking point. But that may change, since Congress passed the US bailout, which includes a $ 175 million infusion for senior nutrition programs.
For many, said Bert Ijams, executive director of Prescott / Prescott Valley Meal on Wheels, leaving their home during the pandemic is risking their lives.
“When the pandemic hit those people who were housebound, their needs were certainly magnified,” she said. “But a lot of other people were and are afraid to go out, to go to the grocery store. More and more people wanted to stay at home, just to protect themselves and their families.
Ijams said his group had stopped their daily meals and wellness checks in Prescott and the Prescott Valley. Instead, they delivered five meals one day a week, with daily phone records. She said more funding would return to daily meals with in-person visits and the ability to serve more people.
Ijams said his agency was funded by a mix of public funds, grants and private donations. She added that although they never turn anyone away, the demand for food services is increasing at an ever faster rate.
“Over the past 17 months, our number of meals provided has increased by 21%,” she said. “It’s significant; almost a quarter of a percent more. I don’t think this trend is going to subside.”
Federal program money will be distributed among the states, which will distribute these funds through organizations such as the Northern Arizona Council of Government. Ijams said it was a misconception that Meals for Wheel only serves low-income households.
“Can you access food, can you prepare food, or do you have a cognitive or physical disability that makes food unsafe or painful?” Many older people no longer drive, so it is difficult for them to access food, ”she said. “These are our two criteria. Poverty is not one of them.”
Dozens of agencies like Meals on Wheels provide hundreds of thousands of collective and home delivered meals to Arizonans every week.