by Mark Boutwell, Executive Director
We are almost there. Individual donors, local foundations, and Senior Solutions together have raised $167,646 to restore most of the funding that was cut last fall to local Meals on Wheels providers. This is worth celebrating. Here at Senior Solutions, we are deeply grateful for the outpouring of donations to ensure that no one who meets the Meals on Wheels eligibility goes without receiving this lifesaving benefit.
Thom Simmons, the Senior Solutions Nutrition Director has been working closely with the directors of meal sites in Bellows Falls, Brattleboro, the Deerfield Valley, the West River Valley, Putney, Saxtons River, and Westminster to monitor the distribution rosters and renegotiate our contracts accordingly. Just last week, we sent out funding from this campaign, to cover the significant increase in meal distribution by the Brattleboro Senior Meals program. Thanks to your donations we were able to do that early in their fiscal year.
On January 26, bill H109 was introduced in the Vermont House of Representatives to increase funding for local meal sites. The bill calls for a $2.00 per meal increase to support Meals on Wheels programs around the state. For meal sites such as the Brattleboro Senior Meals to sustain their operations into the coming years, this increase is critical. Please contact your local representatives and encourage them to support this bill.
On a national level, many seniors will see an increase in their income this year — thanks to an 8% bump in social security benefits to keep up with inflation. There’s just one problem with that, according to Thom.
“They have not changed the eligibility criteria for SNAP/3SquaresVT. That means by getting an 8% increase in their social security, many of these seniors are going to now fall above the eligibility criteria.” This small increase won’t come close to making up the difference in the loss of these benefits.
As reported on Vermont Public radio on January 24, in Vermont, 40% of people have experienced food insecurity in the past year and a half, according to a poll of hundreds of Vermont residents last spring.
Thom suggests that there’s a way for Congress to fix a lot of these issues: through a piece of legislation called the Farm Bill.
“It’s up for reauthorization this year, a process that would allow lawmakers to make permanent changes to SNAP and other federal food assistance programs. They could broaden eligibility criteria and bump up the minimum amount of benefit dollars that people could qualify for” he says.
We are all in this together as we work to ensure that Vermonters of all ages have access to the food they need to thrive. It takes organizing and fundraising on the local level, advocating with our state senators and representatives for legislation that strongly supports these services, and reaching out to our members of Congress to voice our support for such things as the Farm Bill.
Please join me in raising your voice in celebration for our local successes and calling attention to the ongoing needs.