Meals On Wheels Volunteers Worry Government Shutdown Could Impact Hungry Recipients

By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

Ninety-year-old Anthony Bornyak is home-bound. So he relies on his son Tom and other family for help, as well as a program called Meals On Wheels, which provides him with a hot lunch five days a week.

“Meals On Wheels comes in handy. I eat everything. And so far I’m very satisfied with it,” Bornyak said.

His son is also satisfied, but he’s concerned because he fears the partial government shut down could affect the Meals On Wheels program, which is partially funded by the federal government.

“If they didn’t have this Meals On Wheels it would be hard for me because I gotta make his breakfast and his lunch and it’s hard for me because I gotta go to work,” said Tom Bornyak.

Meals On Wheels provides about 200 meals every weekday for needy residents in the Trenton area. They’re prepared by people with developmental disabilities through a partnership with the ARC program. Former director Judy Shouse Levy, now a retired volunteer, says federal funding for the program is secure through the end of this year. But she worries about the impact of a long-term government shutdown.

“Time is of the essence because the longer they wait, the longer the possibility that huge cuts could happen to programs such as ours. And any time there’s a cut, that means somebody’s not going to be fed,” Shouse Levy said.

And she points out other Meals On Wheels programs are still feeling the impact from the sequestration, or automatic spending cuts from last spring.

“We’ve been informed that there were Meals On Wheels programs that were highly affected by the sequester earlier in the spring,” Shouse Levy said. “A greater percentage of their budget came from the federal government than we do. And because they lost the funding, in some programs it was $250,000, that they had to cut clients from their program. And when you have to cut someone from the program, they’re not going to eat. And that’s really what we’re trying to prevent here — is having to tell a client they can’t eat.”

Not every government program’s shut down. Money’s still flowing to both food stamps and Social Security. And over the weekend, civilian employees at sites like joint base Dix/McGuire/Lakehurst and Picatinny got called back to work by the Department of Defense.

But furloughs continue for thousands of government workers and programs like Meals On Wheels hope federal lawmakers will break the budget impasse so the most vulnerable citizens can still get the food they need to survive.