Funding Formula for Senior Nutrition Shifts Dollars from Some Counties

The Eastern Shore’s provider of Meals on Wheels and other nutrition programs for seniors received less than half of the funding it has been receiving from the State this year. 

A change to formulas for state funding of nutrition programs for area agencies on aging made in 2016 is now in effect. The change, intended to reflect shifts in the population, moves substantial funding from Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties, via a reduction to Maintaining Active Citizens (MAC), which runs Meals on Wheels nutrition programs in those counties.

The State’s nutrition funding formula change in 2016 redistributed funding among counties, resulting in the decreases to several less populous counties. While the formula change was made four years ago, the State has supplemented funding for the counties that would have seen reductions since 2016, holding them harmless. This year, those supplemental allocations suddenly ended. Some counties are seeking to make up the budgets for the home-delivered meal providers to continue.

Social isolation and food insecurity can affect the health of seniors but some of Maryland’s nutrition programs are facing state funding reductions.

In 2020, MAC is receiving only an estimated $97 thousand in 2020 as compared with $210 thousand in 2019 according to the documents below from the Department of Aging. The State also reduced by more than half the amount of nutrition funding for USA, an association that serves Kent, Caroline, and Talbot. Other counties that experience decreases are expected to include Allegany, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Garrett, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, and Washington Counties.

Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland states,

When you combine good healthcare with proper nutrition, personal interaction, and shared communications, seniors are happier, healthier, and better able to manage their unique health needs.
  • In 2014, 10.2 million older Americans faced the threat of hunger. Unsure whether their food will last through the month, many homebound seniors have to choose between purchasing food and buying medicine or making important home repairs.

  • More and more, studies show the impact of social isolation, food insecurity, and poverty on overall health. Of the nearly 3,000 older adults we serve annually, 75% live at or below the poverty line.

Community-based programs such as home-delivered meals are a cost-effective way to care for Maryland’s old adults. As described by the Department of Legislative Services in its analysis of the Department of Aging’s 2017 budget,

Community-based services are considered a cost-effective investment for the State because many of the people who receive these services would otherwise require nursing home services if the community-based options were not available. [As shown in Exhibit 2,] the average cost per person for nursing homes is more than double the average cost of the Community Options Waiver, the most expensive community-based option. The community Options Waiver includes such services as personal care, home delivered meals, and accessibility adaptations.

For additional coverage of nutrition funding for fiscal year 2020, see Shore Seniors Brace for “Meals on Wheels” Cutbacks.