To the Editor:
Northeast Kansas Area Agency on Aging (NEKAAA) is asking for support from Brown County to continue the Meals on Wheels Program.
NEKAAA Meals on Wheels Program (licensed by the national organization) and a service provided by NEKAAA is in danger of being discontinued in Brown County. This service is a vital part of helping the aging adults remain independent, in their home, and have nutritional meals regardless of ability to pay. Some are home-bound and unable to prepare meals. Since 2020, nutritional freezer and shelf stable meals have been provided to over 500 residents throughout the entire county by volunteers and NEKAAA. This equates to 34,481 meals delivered to individuals in desperate need of nutritional support.
When Hiawatha Hospital transitioned their home-delivered meal program to NEKAAA Meals, Brown County Commissioners declined to reimburse NEKAAA for meals delivered countywide in the same manner in which they had previously supported the hospital.
The Commissioners, however, did decide to support the delivery of hot meals for a fee through Services for the Elderly. While NEKAAA applauds all efforts to provide nutritional resources for seniors, we also understand many of the clients we serve struggle with poverty and may be unable to pay for meals, even if the fee is nominal.
Through our nutrition risk assessments, we have found that when seniors cannot afford food they often skip meals which puts them at risk for malnutrition which can often lead to increased hospitalizations, poor health outcomes, and decreased life expectancy.
We also understand many of our program participants are spread throughout the county with 16% of program meal recipients residing in District #3 (Pollock), 38% residing in District #2 (Shoemaker), and 46% in District #1 (Lehmkuhl).
Brown County has a Services for the Elderly Budget of $141,020 for the year 2022 from a mill levy established years ago. The budget in 2021 was $135,000. At this time, approximately $60,000 a year is needed from Brown County to support the NEKAAA Meals program. The Older Americans Act (OAA) and Meals on Wheels America state payment for meals must be on a “voluntary basis” knowing there are many seniors on a very low, fixed income. All other counties in our seven-county service area are funding a portion of their meal programs as well as receiving OAA funding through NEKAAA.
As advocates for seniors across the county, we have questions.
• We are asking how all Brown County residents, ages 60 and over, are benefitting from the mill levy established years ago and what the funds are used for?
• Do all senior citizens in outlying areas such as Hamlin, Reserve, Everest, Willis, Morrill, Fairview, Robinson, Powhattan and rural areas benefit from paying those taxes?
• How does Brown County plan to provide a meal for individuals who cannot afford to pay the fee currently charged and what are plans for addressing food insecure seniors county wide?
• Do the meals meet national daily dietary requirements?
NEKAAA has been and continues working on plans for a facility that will house a commercial kitchen for preparing hot meals (congregate and/or home delivered). It is no secret the pandemic has caused a delay. So, to be sure the Meals on Wheels program was not discontinued, the agency worked hard to find nutritional freezer and shelf stable meals for residents in the interim.
If you have any questions, contact Karen Wilson, Executive Director, at 785-742-7152 or email@example.com.
Please contact Brown County Commissioners to show support for this much needed program for either yourself, family members, friends or neighbors.
Richard Lehmkuhl: 785-288-8411, email — firstname.lastname@example.org
Lamar Shoemaker: 785-741-4905, email — email@example.com
William Pollock: 785-474-3417, email — firstname.lastname@example.org
NEKAAA is a 501©(3) organization. NEKAAA assists individuals in living independently in their homes and communities, maintaining their independence, quality of life and dignity, for as long as possible.
Northeast Kansas Area Agency on Aging Board of Directors — Atchison, Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Marshall, Nemaha & Washington Counties
Janean Bowen and Eric Noll, Atchison County
Joanne Noll and Beverly Sunderman, Brown County
Joyce Simpson and Janet Tyler, Doniphan County
Dan Brenner and Anna Wilhelm, Jackson County
Joyce Nelson and Lucille Papes, Marshall County
Nancy Gafford and Lynn Niehues, Nemaha County
Raleigh Ordoyne and Mary Tate, Washington County