RUTLAND, Vt. — Demand is growing for Vermont’s Meals on Wheels program, prompting worry about its future as the population ages.
About 4,700 Vermont residents age 60 and older get meals delivered to their homes through Meals on Wheels, while about 10,000 others get daily meals in group settings, such as senior centers.
Vermont Public Radio (http://bit.ly/2wBTJQF) reports that more than a third of Vermont’s $6.4 million Meals on Wheels budget comes from The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National data shows the program saves lives and billions of dollars a year in health care spending.
Courtney Anderson, of the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging, which serves Rutland and Bennington Counties, says 10 years ago, the majority of clients were 85 and older. Now, most are between 60 and 74 with chronic health conditions.
“Just to give you an idea, in Rutland County we served an additional 10,000 meals over our contract last year,” Anderson said. “Demand for our services continues to grow as our senior population grows.”
Anderson said a survey of clients found that 84 percent reported the meals helped them manage their conditions.
“Ninety-two percent say it enables them to remain living at home, and 98 percent say it makes them feel more safe and secure,” she said.
Anderson said that to avoid a waiting list, officials recently cut their breakfast program entirely and reduced the number of meals they deliver from seven days a week to five.
It’s unclear how possible federal budget cuts could affect the program, but Anderson said officials are worried.