ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County’s Meals on Wheels program was the first program of its kind in New York State and the third oldest program in the country. The program provides meals to seniors who are homebound but right now their waitlist consists of over 100 seniors needing their services who can’t get them.
According to Meals on Wheels director, Margaret Schweizer, the program has the resources, the volunteers, and the space to provide services to those 140 seniors on the waiting list, but what they don’t have are the funds to make it happen. They receive grant funding, as well as state and federal funding but it’s not nearly enough to cover every senior who needs their services.
Last year, over 335,000 meals were delivered to homebound seniors across Monroe County thanks to the Meals on Wheels program. Currently, 850 individuals are on the program with meals costing $7 each.
However, Schweizer says it’s more than just a meal delivery service.
“They’re receiving a safety check. It’s that check on their wellbeing. How are you today? Or how are you feeling? It’s a short little contact. But it’s so much more,” Schweizer said.
However, currently, there are 140 seniors on a waiting list because they can’t afford the 7-dollar-a-meal price tag. A cost that could be remedied if the program had more funding.
“We have the staff, we have the resources except for the funding,” Schweizer said. “Unfortunately, state and federal funding, they try their best to get enough funding out there. But there really is just not enough funding.”
The program also receives funding from United Way that contributes to meals for 35 seniors who otherwise would be on the waiting list. Nadine Weisbrod’s neighbor Joan is on that waiting list and said she wishes more could be done.
Her father benefitted from the program for nine months before he lost his battle with cancer.
“He had something to look forward to. He was really struggling with just grief over his life changes due to cancer and it was just honestly like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders,” Weisbrod said.
Weisbrod says she hopes the community can step up and help provide the funding that the program so desperately needs.
“Only 3% of the funding for Meals on Wheels nationally comes from the federal government. We give so much money to important causes, but a lot of frilly things that are less essential in my opinion,” Weisbrod said. “And yet here in just Rochester alone, we have 140 people waiting for meals to be delivered to them. And they have the volunteers and they have the kitchen to make it and they’ve got the food available, but they just need the funding to reduce the cost for these residents.”
Weisbrod said with massive government spending plans, she hopes governments locally and nationally can do more for what she calls an essential program.
“My hope for this is that we can just rally around Meals on Wheels and lift them up. They’ve been around for over half a century, they’re supporting so many vets across America, and here in Rochester. It could be your widow next door, it could be the disabled person on the street over, that’s just struggling and not getting the food that they need, and feeling alone,” Weisbrod said.
If you would like, you can donate to Monroe County’s Meals on Wheels program here.