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The Truth About Meals on Wheels Funding

If you’re not familiar with Meals on Wheels (looking at you Mick Mulvaney), Meals on Wheels is a home delivery program that provides meals to homebound individuals, many of whom are elderly. In the USA, Meals on Wheels supports 5,000 nutrition organizations around the country.

meals on wheels funding

The nationwide Meals on Wheels network, comprised of 5,000, local, community-based programs, receives 35% of its total funding for the provision of congregate and home-delivered meals from the federal government through the Older Americans Act, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living. –

A recent post to The Senior List’s Facebook page had readers colliding on both ends of the (political) spectrum relating to Meals on Wheels. One of their community members even resorted to name-calling on the Facebook page with a “not a Federal program idiots” comment. Thankfully, folks at The Senior List® pointed out precisely how Meals on Wheels is funded.

Meals on Wheels Funding

Regarding Meals on Wheels funding, there is no debate among those with an internet connection, or a bit of intellectual curiosity. Meals on Wheels funding comes from a variety of sources, the majority of which (a whopping 84%) comes from individual contributions and/or grants from corporations and/or foundations. Only 3% comes from federal block grant programs administered by the state(s).


Last Thursday, fast-talking U.S. budget director – Mick Mulvaney discussed cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program, a source of funding for Meals on Wheels. Mulvaney said that Meals on Wheels “sounds great”, but he just couldn’t defend “programs that don’t work”.  For those of us concerned about the well being of aging adults in America (and abroad), those comments really hit a nerve.

Mick Mulvaney Discusses Meals on Wheels

Opponents of the federal community block grant program will defend their position with a discussion about budget cuts, which no-doubt holds some merit. Proponents of the block grant program will debate whether it makes sense to target programs like Meals on Wheels.  Especially at a time when 2.4 million homebound seniors in the US currently receive food deliveries and wellness checks specifically from Meals on Wheels programs.

Here’s 68 year old Christa Patton speaking with CNN’s Van Jones:

I’m on a fixed income… I’m basically homebound. I haven’t been out of this apartment in like 7 years. How else would I eat? I don’t know. I really don’t know how I would receive healthy food. I used to laugh about the jokes about senior citizens eating dog food, I can understand now exactly what they’re talking about. – Christina Patton speaks to Van Jones | CNN | 3/17/2017

At a time when Americans should be coming together to care for one another, we seem to be drifting further and further apart. Proper nutrition, wellness check-ups, social companionship, and someone to touch are essential for people of all ages, but they are priceless to those who are isolated and in need.

Written By
Amie Clark

Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here


  1. I am 85 and fell and broke my hip and was hospitalized for over three weeks. It took over three weeks to get meals on wheels for my husband who has Parkinson’s and mild dementia, and me an additional two days. The good thing about meals and wheels is that a volunteer checks on the well being of the participant, the bad thing is most of the food is not editable even though it might have the require nutritional requirements. The food is NOT prepared to the taste of elderly people. Each person receiving the meal is asked to pay $4.00, and in addition 35% funding comes from Health and Human Services plus taxes and donations from local sources. Let us say the average cost is $7.00. The majority of frozen food meals in the grocery can be purchased from $2.00 to 4.50. Add a cartoon of milk for another dollar. It does not make economic sense to pay for a facility, plus a staff, plus packaging for the operation of each meals on wheels location. I would suggest that our politicians and the department of Health and Human services check with major companies that process and distribute frozen food meals to groceries as to the cost they would charge for meals meeting the nutritional requirements. I believe it can be done for far less, be cost effective to the recipicants, more tasty with far less waste by companies. Perhaps our politicians would become even more motivated if they had to eat MOW food for a week. You still have the cost of delivery and paper work, but I think that research will show the system can and should be improved immensely by purchasing the meals prepared by major frozen meal companies.
  2. The few complaints I have read are really hard to swallow. (No pun intended) If these are factual problems then tell the right people. Be proactive. Be HELPFUL. Some people may be a little too used to steak when that’s not reality in the days of limited funding. Sure private funds sound great. But from who? Most people on the program can barely afford the VERY AFFORDABLE prices. The person making 650/mo can in no way afford to help fund this wonderful program. So often they miss out. Many are too proud to seek financial help or aren’t aware. And worse, some don’t see any funding due to unscrupulous “helpers”. So if you see a problem, help it! Tell the right people. VOLUNTEER! Enough using MOW as a social platform to spout off. There is something you can do- Do it. Then… be proud of the accomplishments. It’s a whole lot better feeling
  3. Even though I’m not familiar with the program I’m sure it’s a life saver for many. No one knows the struggles of others unless you been in their shoes.So for the critics, keep your words soft and sweet because one day you may have to eat them. And if you never have to eat them then just remember you will be judged how you treat the least among us !
  4. My wife and I started receiving MOW a few weeks ago. Meals are good, hot,well balanced and fresh bread and fruit. My wife is fighting cancer,I’m in my mid 80’s so this is a blessing for us. Loraine delivers to us every day and she is so nice and pleasant to us. We also exchange plants with her. God Bless the MOW Program……Bob $ Carol
  5. We have Meals on Wheels in our area as well as a Senior Dining program which is for Seniors who can go out to get their food. We have a grocery store in town that makes wonderful dinners and sells them through the Deli. They are normally $4.99. Through the Senior Dining program, we can get the meal for $4.00 with a pint of milk and either a piece or fruit or cookie. For instance, 3 pieces fried chicken, 2 sides, 2 rolls, piece of fruit and milk. For $4.00 you can’t beat it. There are many choices and the food is great. So, it is not the federal government that controls the quality of the food.
  6. My mom received Meals on Wheels for a while, she cancelled as the food on most days wasn’t edible. It’s a wonderful program in theory, they really need to step up the quality.
  7. I’m 88, limited mobility, receive Meals on Wheels. Food is edible, some days really good. Volunteers who deliver are always polite and friendly For Christmas, instead of giving me a gift, my daughter donated to Meals on Wheels. I think this was a great idea. She lives in another state but we’re all in this together, aren’t we?
  8. Hasn’t been out of the apartment for 7 years? She hasn’t been to the hospital or seen a physician in over 7 years? I question whether or not she is physically able to provide self-care. Is she making wise decisions? Should she access care at a senior facility?
  9. Good program but questionable meals. Sometimes don’t look edible. Private funding is the best way to go.
    1. My mother received Meals on Wheels and they were decent and had the entree , milk, vegetable,fruit and bread !The delivery person was always polite and caring ! Great program!
  10. yes really good service,i like this service .it is also safe our time. it is healthy and tasty meals.thank you for this service

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