Meals on Wheels Would be Hit by Sequester

Layoffs, cutbacks would result from sequester

By Terry McSweeney
|  Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013  |  Updated 8:09 AM PDT
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The 'Meals on Wheels' program would get the axe as a result of the $85 billion federal spending cut. NBC Bay Area's Terry McSweeney reports.

The 'Meals on Wheels' program would get the axe as a result of the $85 billion federal spending cut. NBC Bay Area's Terry McSweeney reports.

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"It's tough getting old. Things happen you didn't expect."

Those are the words of 79-year-old Don Atkins of Union City.

He didn't expect his wife to die, his business to go under, his only income to be social security, his body to be riddled with cancer, his nutrition to be dependent on Meals on Wheels.

"I would say the extra vitamins and healthy meals helps me with the fight against disease. my doctor agrees with that and so do I," Atkins said.

But if that $85 billion in federal spending cuts kick in because of sequestration, Meals on Wheels will be kicked in the gut.

The organization that provides meals to homebound, isolated, disabled elders would lose a big chunk of its budget. In Contra Costa County, it would mean a loss of $100,000 per year or 280 fewer meals per day.

There could be layoffs. Paul Kraintz, Director of the County Services Nutrition Program in Contra Costa County which operates Meals on Wheels, says layoffs would be a makor setback.

"Really what we have is a professional staff, client care and nutritional staff to make sure the food is nutritious and safe."

Another money-saving option is the unthinkable, turning away elders in desperate need of a meal.

"It's a heartbreaker," Kraintz said.

Kraintz says the County Senior Center Program that provides 700 additional meals per day at 17 locations in the county, would see its budget cut in half.

Atkins said he would also miss the brief daily visits with the Meals on Wheels volunteers.

"You get to know these people, one guy's a Raiders fan, I'm a Raiders fan. He's an A's fan-so am I and so on," he said.

And if Meals on Wheels stops?

"I guess I'll survive somehow -- still eating -- just not as much," Atkins said. "I don't know what that will do to me."

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