(Seguin) -- The brakes are officially in motion for the local Meals on Wheels Program. The Aging Senior Nutrition Program operated by the Community Council of South Central Texas has announced its decision to stop the home delivered and congregate meals for dozens of senior citizens 60 years and older. The announcement was publicly shared during Tuesday's meeting of the Guadalupe County Commissioners Court.
CCSCT Executive Director Bobby Deike shared the information as part of refunding the county for its financial contribution to the program. Deike says with a decline in local contributions, the meals are not being fully subsidized at the state level or by other funding sources such as AACOG (Alamo Area Council of Governments). Deike says continuation of the program was simply a financial risk for the entire agency.
"The Aging Senior Nutrition Program is not fully subsidized by our contracts that we have. We actually had five contracts I guess. We had from the state, Department of Aging and Disability Services, now under Health and Human Services Commission. All of those meals are home delivered meals. Then through ACCOG, we provided both home delivered and congregate meals and then we had three Health Maintenance Organization contracts so on top of the reimbursement rate for $4.95, CCSCT's cost per meal was close to $8 per meal -- so that offset is there that you have to find local sources through grants, donations, volunteerism to offset that," said Deike.
For years, the CCSCT has operated the program not only in Guadalupe County but also in Atascosa, Comal, Frio, Karnes, McMullen and Wilson.The entire program in those counties will also be cut. In addition to the delivered meals, congregate meals have also been served daily at the Seguin Center located at 744 Kingsbury St. In other to qualify, a home visit was conducted for each client. The cost of the meal for seniors is free, although a suggested donation of $4 per meal was collected if possible.
Deike stated that there were plenty of efforts in trying to maintain the program's operation. However, he says there was just simply not enough money to cover the costs of all the meals that were being served. He says it's just been a big challenge for them to continue.
"The other issue you have with Senior Meals Program is with ACCOG -- although they authorize a client to receive the senior meals, they don't buy 100 percent of the meals. So each month, it fluctuates from 21 to 22 meals that we would provide a client, but ACCOG may authorize 10 meals for a client. So therefore, we were offering 11 or 12 meals to that client when we were not receiving any subsidy and we had to make up that difference, " said Deike.
In Guadalupe County, a total of 4,800 meals are served per month Mondays through Fridays.
Many county officials say they're shocked and surprised by the discontinuation of the program. Many stated that they had wished that they were made aware of the problem prior to it being placed on the agenda.
Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher says he is not happy to hear the news as it questions the health and well being for those in the area who have come to rely on such a program.
"We got some bad news in my opinion that the Community Council is unable to continue the Meals on Wheels or the Texans feeding Texans Program. We got a little bit of information from Community Council on a number of Guadalupe County residents that are benefiting from the program. By March the 23rd or 28th, that program is going to be going away. Our hope at this point is to gather some information, talk to ACCOG and a few other agencies to see if there is any other resources out there that could continue this program, because obviously, there are Guadalupe County residents that rely on a program like this to deliver meals to them -- either they're homebound seniors, people who don't have the income or the means, don't have family in the area or any other help or way of getting food. So again, our hope is that somebody else can continue this, but we're going to have to be more involved in this process than we have been in the past," said Kutscher.
County officials questioned whether the elimination of other CCSCT programs could help offset the overall cost of the program. Deike responded by saying that particular programs come with their own designated funding -- funding required for that operation only.
"We worked with the board in November, gave authority to the executive committee and the finance committee to continue to work with the management to see how we could possibly continue with the program. Then actually (it was on) Friday, January 19th that the board and the executive and finance committee made the decision to discontinue the program based on the financial risk. We couldn't risk the entire agency for this one program. So they had the difficult decision to make," said Deike.
Deike says the first set of meals will stop being served later this month. All other meals will continue through mid March. He says clients are being notified of the program's cancelation. Again, efforts and negotiations to possibly find a new provider, are expected to continue through the AACOG's Alamo Area Agency on Aging.