Sequester cuts take a bite out of meals for seniors - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sequester cuts take a bite out of meals for seniors

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The drop-off spots for these delivery men in Winooski are all different, but the package is the same: a hot meal, some quick conversation and a smile.

"They've lived their lives nurturing us. We can't forget them in their days of need," Winooski Mayor Michael O'Brien said.

Making the stops on this day-- Winooski's mayor and Reggie, who has been delivering Meals on Wheels for 19 years. In that time, the number of seniors needing meals has skyrocketed. The Champlain Valley Agency on Aging says they now deliver some 245,000 meals annually, double what they were doing just a decade ago.

"The big concern for us is making sure that all seniors who need it get food," said Sarah Lemnah of CVAA.

But the agency says many seniors in the state are actually going hungry.

"A lot of seniors, even if they're eating, they're not eating the right stuff," Lemnah said.

Senior hunger is a growing national issue. About 1 in every 4 seniors citizens is considered malnourished and for people receiving these Meals on Wheels-- for about half of them-- this is the only food they'll have all day. And compared to those national numbers, the agency says Vermont seniors may be even worse off.

"We have pockets of extreme poverty in Vermont. We have rural areas," Lemnah said. "It's hard for people to get to the grocery store. Families don't live close by. So a lot of seniors are making do on tea and toast."

Tea and toast may be the menu for more seniors with the federal budget cuts known as the sequester-- the agency's budget is being slashed by $85,000. They're using emergency funds in the short term, but if the cuts aren't reversed, they say they may have to create a waiting list for food deliveries.

"We don't want to tell a senior you can't get a meal for six months because of funding," Lemnah said.

A funding fight in Washington knocking on seniors' doors in Winooski.

Nationwide, the White House says 4 million fewer meals for seniors will be able to be delivered when the full cuts of the sequester kick in.

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