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Bicameral Bill Seeks to Ensure Meals for Seniors Reach Destination

August 3, 2021 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON — A bicameral bill with bipartisan sponsors would provide $500 million for competitive grants for states to purchase, customize and repair vehicles that provide meals to food insecure senior citizens.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Filemon Vela, D-Texas and John Katko, R-N.Y., reintroduced the Helping Our Most Elderly Secure Meals Act, on Tuesday.

According to Meals On Wheels and others, eight out of 10 low income seniors are not receiving the meals they need simply because the vehicles these programs rely on are often in need of costly repairs or need to be replaced.

“This is simply heartbreaking and unacceptable,” Manchin said. “Caring for older Americans must be a top priority for all of us. Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation would ensure that our seniors are taken care of and receive the quality home-based nutrition they need along with social interaction, which is essential.” 

“Home-delivered meals play an important role in allowing seniors to age in place by providing them with nutritious meals and reducing social isolation,” Collins said. “By supporting efforts to purchase and repair meal delivery vehicles, our bipartisan bill would strengthen the home-based meal network that helps seniors, including those living in rural communities, put healthy food on their tables.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted seniors and has affected their ability to get food on their own, highlighting the need for home-based meal delivery systems. With the senior population in the United States expected to double by the year 2060, it’s more important than ever to provide nutrition and socialization to older seniors across the country, the lawmakers said.

The HOME Meals Act would:

  • Establish a five-year competitive grant program for states to purchase, customize, or repair vehicles that provide meals to older Americans.
  • Authorize $60 million a year through FY2022 to FY2026 for a total of $300 million.
  • Preference for grants will be given to states with:
    • High percentages of individuals who are 60 years of age or older;
    • High rate of individuals at or below poverty line; and
    • Operating meal delivery programs at the time of application.

“Organizations in my district in Central New York like Meals on Wheels of Syracuse, PEACE, Inc., and the Food Bank of Central New York have played a critical role in ensuring local seniors have access to healthy meals, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Katko said.

“To advance these efforts, I’m proud to reintroduce the HOME Meals Act. This bipartisan bill empowers states to purchase or repair food storage vehicles for senior meal deliveries, ensuring local organizations have the resources they need to provide for the most vulnerable in our communities.”

“Home-based meal delivery systems have been essential in keeping seniors and those with underlying medical conditions safe from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Vela said. “Increasing the availability of these services is critical to ensuring we curtail hunger and food insecurity for our most vulnerable communities.”

The bill text can be found here.

Background information on the bill can be found here.

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