“The suggested contribution has not been raised in more than ten years,” said Jeremy Pehrson, nutrition program manager at Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG). “While a contribution for meal recipients is not required, senior contributions cover for 20% of the overall meal program’s costs and are vitally important to supporting the service.”
Last year the program lost approximately $100,000 due to federal budget cuts. Flat funding from the state amid a rise in food and operational costs also diminished funding.
MAG administers the funding of the nutrition program for 15 local senior centers in Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties. Between the senior centers and Meals on Wheels, MAG provides a hot, nutritious lunch for more than 1,200 seniors each weekday.
“All senior contributions are put directly back into the meal program,” said Pehrson. “It costs $6 a meal to prepare, make and deliver the meals. Considering the actual costs of the meal, $3 is very reasonable.”
While seniors are encouraged to donate the $3 per meal, seniors are not required to contribute and, by federal law, will not be denied meals if unable to do so. For senior center visitors younger than 60, the required cost is $6. Seniors with more financial resources are encouraged to donate the full $6. The previous suggested contribution was $2.25 per meal.
“Our main goal is to serve the seniors in our community who rely on this service,” said Perhson. “Amid those cuts, MAG continually strives to keep the costs for the meals low while providing nutritious, high-quality meals.”
One of those cost-saving efforts was the creation of the volunteer program. More than 275 volunteers currently deliver 50 percent of Meals on Wheels meals. After its inception five years ago, the program eliminated the waiting list for potential Meals on Wheels clients.
“We are doing everything we can to sustain the program locally,” said Pehrson. “We have been fortunate to find ways to cut costs without cutting services.”
The meals will continue to be partially subsidized by the federal government under the Older Americans Act. Additional state and local government vitally support the program. The decision to increase the suggested contribution was approved by the Aging Advisory Council and MAG Executive Council.
Those interested in supporting the program can either donate atwww.mountainland.org/donate or volunteer atwww.mountainland.org/volunteer.