Meals on Wheels: March 20, 2017

Dear Mr. VP,

Let’s talk about my grandmother.

As of a few weeks ago, she’s my only surviving grandparent. She, like you, grew up in an Irish Catholic family and I can most certainly see how that has impacted her to this day. (Most notably when at Christmas she almost passed out after hearing my child yell a phrase about Jesus that I shall not repeat here.)

My grandmother is not particularly political. A few weeks ago she asked me why people were bothering to protest, because what was it going to do, anyway? She worries all the time about my cousin in Paris — he’s at demonstrations there quite a bit and I know she a) doesn’t understand why and b) is terrified he’s going to get arrested. She was also not thrilled that I’d brought Giles to some marches.

But anyway.

While she’s not going to be knocking on doors for Bernie anytime in the near future, or even signing the petitions held by the people at the door at the local Stop and Shop, she does something every week that wasn’t political….until 45 made it an issue.

My grandmother delivers Meals on Wheels. Every Friday, she takes food to seniors, some who live in fairly rural areas in Northern Rhode Island. She’s been doing it for years and years, and has formed relationships with the people she visits. For the recipients, I have to imagine the visit isn’t just about food — though they need that, as homebound elderly folks on fixed incomes — but is also perhaps their only chance to socialize throughout the day. Sometimes, that visit is also a lifeline that keeps them from literally dying after falling or getting hurt without a phone or method of contacting the outside world within reach. 

There’s a joke in my family that even points to GG’s dedication to this volunteer work. She’s been complaining for years that the people on her route don’t get soup. They used to, and then because of what I assume had to be budget cuts, the soup was cut from the menu. At one point my apolitical grandmother was actually bringing this up with her elected officials, by way of family connections. Soup hasn’t been back on the menu, but my grandmother does purchase extra treats every week to deliver with the meals. And you’ll hear about it from her if she thought the food was subpar that week.

That brings us to today. I haven’t talked to her since the budget was announced, but I can only imagine the earful I’m going to get about how “stupid” (that’s exactly the word she’ll use) it is that MoW funds are being cut. 

And she’s right, but “stupid” isn’t taking the criticism far enough. 9% of all seniors (folks over 60) experience food insecurity. This number is expected to increase by 50% by 2025, and that’s not even taking into consideration Trumpcare and the higher cost of medical care and insurance that’ll be foisted onto seniors if that mess of a bill passes. Cutting funds to feed elderly people isn’t just stupid, it’s inhumane. Remember the totally fake specter of death panels when Obamacare came around? That was bogus; this is real. Further, multiple scientific studies point to the efficacy of meal-delivery programs for seniors. 

Before some libertarian economist shows up and yells about it: it’s true, the Trump budget doesn’t directly defund Meals on Wheels. It defunds community block grants used to fund state and local MoW chapters and also slashes the HHS budget by 16%. Yes, sure, communities could continue to fund MoW with local money, and some of them will be lucky enough to be able to do that. But in the poorest communities, and in particular the poorest and most rural communities — where they voted for you, ironically — do you really think that local money exists? 

“We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good,” said Mick Mulvaney. 

Well, maybe I’m just a radical, but I don’t think feeding hungry seniors just sounds good. It is good. It’s just something you support doing because you’re a good person. Like my grandma.

Who, by the way, is probably your new mortal enemy.

D

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