Meals on Wheels remarks ‘more than hurtful’

WASHINGTON — White House budget director Mick Mulvaney’s comments about Meals on Wheels “just not showing any results” hit Stephanie Archer-Smith particularly hard.

“It’s infuriating, frankly,” said Archer-Smith, the executive director of Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

The organization provides meals daily to more than 3,000 seniors in that region.

Programs in D.C. and Virginia serve around 6,900 and 24,000 seniors, respectively.

“It’s more than hurtful,” she added, “because we stand by the work that we do and see firsthand the impact that it has.”

Mulvaney made the comments during a news conference about President Donald Trump’s proposed $1.15 trillion budget, which aims to boost military spending as well as provide funding for a wall along the Mexican border.

Funding for programs like Meals on Wheels would be cut, if not eliminated.

“We’re just under a $9 million budget,” Archer-Smith said of the Central Maryland program, “and when you cut several thousand dollars from that, it means that people aren’t served and that meals aren’t being delivered.”

“For every $8 that we lose, that’s one more person, one more day, that hasn’t been served a meal.”

Meals on Wheels’ benefits to the vulnerable, she said, go beyond delivered food. The volunteers who deliver those meals are trained to notice changes in a client’s demeanor and other red flags during a wellness check.

Discovering larger problems, she said, can lead to early intervention so seniors get connected to other services they need.

“We’ve been doing this work for more than 60 years, and we have very personal stories that we can share of the difference that we’ve made in people’s lives,” Archer-Smith said.

Researchers back up that anecdotal evidence.

According to a 2013 review in the journal Nutrition and Health of “scientific evidence on the impact of home-delivered meal services on diet and nutrition among recipients,” the benefits were conclusive.

Such programs, the authors wrote, “significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants.

“Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life,” they added.

And a 2015 report authored by Dr. Kali Thomas, a public health researcher at Brown University found that home-delivered meals provide health and psychological benefits to seniors in addition to basic nutrition.

Earlier research by Thomas has also shown: 1) States that invest more in delivering meals to seniors’ homes have lower rates of “low-care” seniors in nursing homes; and 2) Expanding such programs would help some seniors who are on Medicaid to stay out of nursing homes, saving 26 states money.

Such research, Archer-Smith said, “shows the significant impact of not just the meals but the unique formula of providing those meals daily with the personal contact and safety and wellness check that goes along with the service,” she said.

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