Many seniors in Central New York rely on the Meals on Wheels program. The need has increased and has outpaced the funding that supports it. It now has a waiting list. Iris St. Meran sat down with the program's executive director, who explains why seniors can't wait.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The meals prepared at Meals on Wheels are much more than food for seniors.
"It's someone who is contacting you on a daily basis for a safety check," said Meals on Wheels Syracuse Executive Director Mason Kaufman. "It's somebody who's making sure that you're OK, that you're eating every day and that you can stay in your home."
In Syracuse, the need for services has increased 18 percent. Kaufman said it's the same story for the three other Meals on Wheels programs. Together, they'll provide more than 439,000 meals will be given to 1,300 homebound seniors and disabled adults in 2016.
"Funding has been flat for many years," Kaufman said, "and it's finally caught up to the point where need is outpacing the funds."
The charity relies on help from the state and federal government. Seniors currently in the program won't be impacted, but others may have to wait. If funding doesn't increase, people will be put on a waiting list that could have them waiting for months rather than a few days. That could mean going to a nursing home or going hungry.
"What we are asking this time is contact your Congresspeople and to sign a petition to gain more funding for the older Americans Act," Kaufman recommended.
Aside from reaching out to lawmakers, there are things you can do to help the program, including signing up to volunteer to deliver these meals.
"For every person that we deliver to, we have to have someone that can deliver to them," Kaufman said about the constant need for volunteers.
The bottom line: Getting involved in any capacity will help them get results.
To sign the petition, visit http://meals.org/waitinglist.