Trump budget is one lacking compassion

Published 11:09 am Monday, March 20, 2017

President Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told the White House Press Corps that cuts are being proposed to Meals on Wheels and school nutrition programs, such as after-school snacks for kids, because those programs “aren’t showing any results.” The budget also includes cuts to community health departments, after-school and summer programs, reduces federal work-study aid to college students, eliminates the weatherization assistance program, and heating aid for the poor.
“We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. We’re going to spend money, we’re going to spend a lot of money, but we’re going to spend it on programs that deliver on the promises we made to people,” said Mulvaney. Those promises include building a multi-billion dollar wall on the border of Mexico and United States, a wall that we the American taxpayer will pay for, not Mexico, as Trump said in his campaign. A lot of those dollars will go to tax cuts for multi-millionaires, increased insurance costs for seniors and the very poor.
Hunger is very real in America. One in seven Americans — 46 million people — rely on food pantries and meal programs to feed themselves and their family, according to a study by Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks.
Hunger exists in literally every community in America. It’s an urban problem, it’s a suburban problem, and it’s a rural problem.
According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, 3 million U.S. households with children were food insecure in 2015 — meaning that “these households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.”
An initiative called the Child and Adult Care Food Program serves meals and snacks to around 3.7 million children on average each day in day care facilities, at a cost of about $3 billion annually. Note that Trump is calling for an increase in military spending of $54 billion annually, equal to 18 times that budgetary outlay.
The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee served 8,973,408 meals last year to people in our area struggling with hunger. They note that the people they serve are hard workers. Many of them are unemployed or are underemployed. They are the janitors, who clean the floors of your children’s schools, receptionists, fast food workers. They just can’t make ends meet because there is not enough money to go around, when you take into account rent, utility bills, gas for the car, clothing for the children, etc.
In Carter County there are numerous groups who feed the hungry, among them churches, the TLC Center, Hale Community Ministry, and Assistance Resource Ministry, in addition to Meals on Wheels. Also, local school children receive free breakfast before school and free lunches, a program the Trump administration has also targeted for cuts.
Although the Meals on Wheels program does not serve that many Carter Countians, it does provide valuable nourishment each day to more than 1,000 persons in the Northeast Tennessee area served by the First Tennessee Development District. It also provides much-needed human interaction, at the dining sites such as the Elizabethton Senior Center, where recipients meet one another daily and at the homes when volunteers deliver meals to the door. For many, that brief exchange and conversation in the home of an elderly person may be the only human interaction they share that day.
The meal and the interaction are vital, and the importance of the program and the people who make it happen can’t be overstated. Meals on Wheel is “more than a meal” to not only seniors but to homebound individuals in our community.
Meals on Wheels is undergoing a dramatic overhaul as government and philanthropic funding fails to keep pace with a rapidly growing elderly population. The increased demand has resulted in lengthy wait lists and a need to find other sources of funding.
Meals on Wheels also receives state and local funding as well as private donations. It relies on volunteers to provide many of its services.
Studies conducted by Brown University researchers have shown that meal deliveries can help elderly people stay out of nursing homes, reduce falls and save states money.
Meals on Wheels can be the “eyes and ears” for health providers, especially in the case of seniors who are ill and don’t have family nearby.
Meals on Wheels is available in Carter, Greene, Johnson, Hancock, Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties. Volunteers are always needed in each of these counties. Volunteers are essential to the program because not only do they deliver a meal to the recipients, often they are the only people the recipients see each day.
The nutrition program receives funds from Title III Older American’s Act, local governments and USDA.
The question must be asked: Have we lost our compassion for the poor, the elderly, and the children in our country? Must they be denied so that a multi-billion dollar wall can be built on our southern border? So that the rich can pad their bank accounts?

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