The Federal Government Robbed 19 Million Meals From Senior Citizens

Sequestration means a huge dent in Meals on Wheels programs across the country.

Across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to kick in today will eliminate 19 million meals for low-income seniors, according to the Meals on Wheels Association of America. In other words, the federal government’s incompetence will come at the cost of senior citizens nutritional wellbeing.

The immediate cuts to Meals on Wheels adds to a long list of programs helping the poor that will get squeezed by the sequester, including public rent assistance, emergency housing and farm loans.

The Obama administration says a more conservative 4 million meals under nutrition assistance programs will be cut under sequestration, but, as the Huffington Post’s Arthur Delaney explains, the president’s estimate doesn’t pass the sniff test:

The White House has not provided a detailed explanation of how it came up with its count of lost meals, but allowed there could be funding streams omitted from its estimate. The Meals On Wheels number is based not just on funding for home-delivered meals, but also funds for "congregant" meals served in group settings and funds for nutrition-service incentive programs.

While the president and congress sit back and watch across-the-board cuts go through, local media across the country have been reporting on how the cuts will hurt Meals on Wheels and other nutritional assistance programs in their respective communities.

In Columbia, South Carolina WLTX-TV spoke with a local Meals on Wheels representative, who laid out the dire effects of cuts on local seniors.

"If that meal is cut or we can't get people on the program, then they are probably not going to get any nutritional value. For many of them that's the only meal they eat all day,” said Annie Eveleigh, spokesperson for Columbia Meals on Wheels.

Meanwhile, Central Oregon’s KTVZ-TV reports that the cuts will not only harm seniors today, but could also have long-term financial consequences.

“Some of the seniors will get ill or need more care and that would in turn cost more to the taxpayer than what it currently costs,” said Pamela Norr, the Executive Director of the Central Oregon Council on Aging.

Makes you wonder: does the federal government even care about the people they screw over?

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.