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Federal stimulus funds to help local seniors

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Vice President Joe Biden announced today that the Department of Health and Human Services will award $1,972,292 in Recovery Act funding to provide meals to low-income seniors in Tennessee. The funding is expected to provide nearly 14 million meals nationwide.

“Across the country, older Americans depend on senior centers and home delivery programs for regular, healthy meals. Today, more senior citizens are in need, but the programs they depend on are on the brink of reducing their services or closing down,” Biden said. “The Recovery Act will help ensure older Americans are not forced to choose between paying bills and buying food.”

In Rutherford County, some of the money will benefit the Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency’s Meals-On-Wheels, director Cheryl Lisi said.

Lisi said it costs $845 per year to provide one senior with one meal a day. The stimulus funds can be used to provide meals to needy seniors.

“It’s estimated that one out of every four seniors goes to bed hungery,” she siad. “We can back that up with the over 200 on our waiting list and we cover 12 counties.”

Funding for nutrition programs for seniors in the Older Americans Act was initially authored and championed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Nationwide, the Recovery Act provides $65 million for congregate nutrition services provided at senior centers and other community sites, $32 million for home delivered nutrition services delivered to frail elders at home and $3 million for Native American nutrition programs.

The Recovery Act funding comes as budget constraints have forced states and tribes to limit community-based services and critical Older Americans Act related services, including home-delivered meals. Across the country, organizations that serve senior citizens have scaled back services and limited the number of meals served per week.

The economic downturn has also made it difficult for many seniors to afford the right foods to keep themselves healthy and active.

Additionally, many seniors may be too impaired to prepare nutritious meals for themselves. Without regular nutritious meals, the health of many older Americans declines; they become more susceptible to illness; their ability to manage their chronic diseases is reduced, and they may lose their ability to remain at home, independent in their community.
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