Sequestration taking a bite out of senior citizen food program
The other day, I made a stop at the Oneida County Department on Aging to complete an assignment, and as I walked through the door a delicious aroma met my nose. It was lunch time and 20 or so seniors were seated around tables eating a delicious meal.
While I could tell they were savoring their lunch, they were also talking and laughing as they ate, enjoying the camaraderie of other diners.
This food program extends to other parts of Oneida County as well, including the rural community of Cassian where I live. Meals are delivered by volunteers who not only provide hot, nourishing food, but also serve as ambassadors, who visit with these folks and make sure they are OK.
While I’m no expert at governmental spending, or lack of it, it seems the current federal administration is cutting funds to this program through “sequestration,” a plan that was implemented last March. Close to $15,000 will be cut next year to feed our senior citizens and even more funds are slated to be cut in the following years.
Last year, 55,414 meals were prepared for Oneida County seniors. That’s at a cost of $368,253. Almost 50 percent of the funding for these meals comes from the participants or their families who contribute donations, although by law they are not required to do so. Forty-eight percent of the funding comes from federal and state funds. Only two percent comes from the tax levy and next year, for the first time, fundraisers will be needed to supplement the program.
The meal program goes through a bid process and this year, Lynn’s Catering of Rhinelander was given the contract. Lynn makes sure she includes plenty of healthy vegetables and other nutritious fare in each meal. In fact, the recipe I included this week (it has been sized down) is a favorite on the lunch menu for many seniors.
While I have seen firsthand the importance of these meals to our elderly, including many of my own neighbors and friends, seniors are expressing that themselves in a display that is currently at the Oneida County courthouse. Paper plates and white lunch bags, tacked on a board, give testament to how much our senior population depends on this sustenance. The display was put together to show how important funding is for this program. Seniors expressed that on these paper plates and bags in their own handwriting. Most are heart-wrenching.
“I can’t stand very long so I can’t cook for myself, this is the only hot meal I eat.”
“These meals help me afford a nutritious meal.”
“These meals not only help me financially, more importantly, they provide a much needed balance to my diet.”
“Without this meal I would not be eating properly. I’m 97 years old and find it hard to cook for myself.”
“Because of these meals I am able to maintain my independence which means so much to me.”
The purpose of the display is to bring awareness of the importance of this food program to seniors and the difference it makes in their lives. And let’s face it … we’re all heading for the day (hopefully) when we too will be senior citizens.
If you want to make a difference, call these government officials who represent us and voice your concern. They are Senator Ronald Johnson, 202-224-5323; Senator Tammy Baldwin, 202-224-5653; Congressman Sean Duffy, 202-225-3365; and Congressman Reid Ribble, 202-225-5665.
I once read a quote by Hubert Humphrey that has stuck with me throughout my life: “….the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
It makes me wonder, how will our government pass this test?
Chicken Breast with Mushroom/Bacon Sauce
2 Tbs. butter, melted
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp. seasoning salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 thick slices bacon diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, halved
1/4 cup heavy cream or 1 tsp. flour mixed with 2 tsp. water instead.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour melted butter into a 9X9-inch baking dish. Add chicken; sprinkle with seasoning salt and garlic. Turn chicken over; season.
Sprinkle with mushrooms and bacon. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 60 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Remove chicken, bacon and mushrooms to a platter and keep warm. Pour juices from baking dish into a small saucepan and whisk together with cream over low heat until thickened. Pour sauce over chicken and serve warm. Serve with wild rice, green beans and a fruit salad.