Five Questions for: Vicki Keller

This month, FSD delved into the world of senior nutrition programs and how budget cuts have affected these services. Here we talk with Vicki Keller, program coordinator for Missouri’s senior nutrition programs. For more information on senior nutrition programs and to learn about non-commercial involvement in Meals on Wheels programs, read the October cover story “Seniors in Need.”

How many nutrition programs are run in the state?

The state receives funding for two senior nutrition programs. Federal funding is received from the Older Americans Act (OAA) program through the Administration on Aging, for congregate and home delivered meals. Funding for Medicaid meals is received from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. There is also a Meals on Wheels program that derives funds from various organizations, including United Way. The Department of Health and Senior Services has regulatory authority over the OAA and Medicaid funding but not the Meals on Wheels program.

In 2009, we served 2.76 million congregate meals and 5.33 million home delivered meals. In 2010, we served 2.64 million congregate meals and 5.21 million home delivered meals.

How much was cut from the state’s nutrition programs?

In state fiscal year (SFY) 2010, there was a net decrease from SFY 2009 funding levels of $1,320,260, this includes stimulus money received, net of the cuts sustained. We received $1,284,714 for the congregate program and $632,475 for the home delivered meals program, for a total of $1,917,189.

For SFY 2011 there was a net decrease from SFY 2010 funding levels of $2,243,413, this is from stimulus money no longer being available and further cuts sustained.

Have any senior nutrition sites been closed because of budget cuts in the past two years?

Yes, there have been a few senior centers closed within the last two years, though some of the closings were planned before the current budget cuts.

How have budget cuts affected the senior nutrition program?

No pay increases for staff; hours cut for employees; outreach efforts are not looking for new participants; extra emphasis has been put on participant contributions, re: raising the suggested amount of contribution; and with increase costs of utilities, etc., Area Agencies on Aging have looked for creative ways to cut food cost such as utilizing food from food banks.

What are the biggest challenges facing your senior nutrition programs?

Increased cost of raw food; health insurance cost for staff; greater need for meals to the younger disabled population; dwindling congregate meal participation; and meeting the needs of the newer senior population.