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Trump administration proposes cuts that would slash partial Meals on Wheels funding

Posted at 7:57 PM, Mar 17, 2017

GRANDVILLE, Mich. -- One in six seniors are struggling with hunger nationwide, a need that is growing and programs like Meals on Wheels Western Michigan address. However, White House officials proposed a budget Thursday that would stop some of those meal deliveries.

In Kent, Allegan, and partially in Montcalm and Berrien counties, Meals on Wheels Western Michigan feeds 1,700 seniors daily on average, according to their statistics.  If the proposed White House cuts are passed, 37,000 meals – about one month’s worth – would go undelivered in West Michigan next year.

“If she didn’t have meals on wheels she’d starve,” said Tress Smitter Friday, speaking of her friend to FOX 17.

Smitter says she’s fortunate to have the support of her family, but also relies on Meals on Wheels Western Michigan for one balanced meal each day. She receives deliveries Monday, Wednesday and Friday, choosing "cold" and frozen meals.

“There are a lot of people here in this building who don’t have a support group, absolutely nobody helps them, period,” said Smitter. “Nobody comes, this is a dumping place.”

Learning the Trump administration may cut some of Meals on Wheels’ federal funding, Smitter says she was shocked. Officials announced cuts Thursday including a possible $3 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant program.

“Holy smokes, what do you think you’re doing?” she asked. “What I wanted to do is say, ‘Come to my house for a week and eat my food, and live on my income, and see what you would do.'"

Meals on Wheels Western Michigan produces 2,500 meals daily in their Grandville kitchen, says Lisa Wideman, their director of operations.

“We produce meals that are very well-balanced nutritionally, it’s not just a TV dinner,” said Wideman.

Their President Brewster Hamm says 65 percent of their budget comes from state and federal funding. Their federal funding includes the Older Americans Act, which could also be cut 17.9 percent under President Trump’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services budget plan, something Hamm says they're more concerned about. If passed, this would cost their operation $140,000 in West Michigan and some seniors’ independence.

“When you think of the cost of what it costs for a senior to have food for a year, versus the cost of a nursing home,” said Hamm, “there’s just no comparison.”

For Smitter and 5,686 other seniors served last year in West Michigan, these meals can be a life line.

“I am sure that if some of these people didn’t have Meals on Wheels they absolutely would go hungry, period,” said Smitter.