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NY Congresswoman Vows To Protect Funding For Nutrition Programs

WAMC, Allison Dunne

New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey visited a Meals on Wheels senior center in Rockland County today. She was there to highlight the impact of federal nutrition funding, and what she says is the need for Congress to pass a spending bill that includes such funding.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, visited one of five centers of Meals on Wheels Programs and Services of Rockland Monday to underscore the need for federal funding for senior nutrition centers. She says Congress must pass a spending bill by December 11 to avoid a government shutdown and keep federal funding headed for programs like Meals on Wheels. She spoke to a roomful of senior citizens in the Clarkstown-Pearl River center just before lunchtime.

“I just want to assure you that working with all my colleagues here today that we’re going to keep fighting to make sure we get this bill passed because a million dollars is a lot of money,” says Lowey. “And we want to make sure it continues to come to Rockland and throughout the country, frankly, to serve our seniors.”

Meals on Wheels of Rockland, which receives more than $1.3 million in federal funding to help implement its mission, will deliver about 160,000 meals to homebound residents this year. That’s in addition to operating its five senior centers. Again, Lowey.

“Frankly, to even think about the money being lost would be a disaster.”

Don Hammond is incoming president and CEO for Meals on Wheels of Rockland. He says if federal funding were lost, the biggest impact would be to the meals delivered to homebound residents. He says it costs $1,900 a year to feed one senior citizen, and there is a waiting list of 17.

“It’s a very important vote for the seniors not just here in Rockland County, but across our country. It really is an important vote,” says Hammond. “And there are other parts of the bill also for funding for other people for food, for TANF, for all kinds of things to support folks that are living either in poverty or very close to poverty.”

TANF is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Hammond talks about what happens if the spending bill does not pass.

“So we’re going to have to figure out some way of prioritizing. Honestly, I don’t know how we’re going to do it. There’s no way really to prioritize who gets meals and who doesn’t because they all need them. They’re all homebound,” says Hammond. “And it’s not just about the meals. We also go and spend time with people because it’s delivered by a volunteer. So the volunteer goes into the home and talks and it’s a socialization process as well as meals.  We’ll have to scramble. We’ll have to scramble hard to bring more funds in. Even if the funds get held up, we’ll still need to scramble around to get money.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

Harriet Basile says she has been coming to the Meals on Wheels Clarkstown-Pearl River Center since 2010, after her husband died. She has made friends and is kept busy.

“I come here, you could talk, you can argue. We have people come in and entertain us. We have people teaching us different things. And it’s great. There’s all different kind of people here,” says Basile. “You have the meals are, I say pretty good, I have to say they’re pretty good. People will complain, but people will always complain, but the meals are great. The staff is great.”

She is particularly fond of one food item.

“I have to say, their soup is the best soup, ‘cause I’m a soup person, their soup is so damn good. It is so good.”

A few Rockland County legislators along with State Senator David Carlucci, an Independent Democrat, also spoke at the Meals on Wheels center. Meanwhile, Vermont Democratic Congressman Peter Welch was scheduled to highlight the mission of Meals on Wheels in his state Tuesday by joining volunteers to deliver meals.

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