Meals on Wheels programs across the state of Texas are keeping our most vulnerable older adults fed, safe and connected to their communities. As the state legislature convenes in Austin, Texas Meals on Wheels providers, like the Visiting Nurse Association of Texas (VNA), are calling upon our representatives to increase the common per meal rate to $7. It is our collective responsibility to ensure our older adult neighbors can remain healthy and safe in their homes.
Per 2020 Census data, nearly 4 million people in Texas are older than 65, with 3.3 million nearing 65. Alignment Health reported economic instability, loneliness and food insecurity are the biggest burdens for elderly Texans. One in 5 older Texans reported inconsistent access to nutritious food and COVID has led to increased reports of isolation and loneliness—30% of elderly Texans are isolated.
VNA Meals on Wheels serves 4,500 seniors every weekday and delivered more than 1.4 million meals last year alone. As one of 300 providers belonging to Meals on Wheels Texas, our overall network of providers delivered 17.2 million meals to more than 63,000 individuals in 2022.
Furthermore, Meals on Wheels programs offer more than a meal—serving as the eyes and ears for isolated seniors who rely on the daily safety check, providing wrap-around services such as case management, nursing visits and pet care—these community-based programs keep older adults in their homes where they want to be and out of costly nursing homes. For example, VNA Meals on Wheels provides one year of hot meals for $1,950 ($7.50/meal) compared with the state paying for a resident in a nursing home at more than $66,000 per year.
Meals on Wheels programs need more support from the state. There has been only one modest rate increase for meals in 15 years—resulting in the current reimbursement from the State as $5.31. This amount leaves a significant burden on local nonprofit Meals on Wheels providers, whose cost per meal averages over $7. Additionally, most providers, including VNA, rely on community funds and other funding resources to serve more seniors, not funded through state funds, who rely on this lifeline. As we all face the increased pressure of inflation, the responsibility of caring for vulnerable seniors must be shared.
Now is the time for the Texas legislature to support local Meals on Wheels programs. Click here to let your representative know you support an increased investment in Meals on Wheels programs this legislative session.
Chairman of the Board, Meals on Wheels Association of Texas
Vice President, Chief of Strategy and Development,
The Visiting Nurse Association of Texas (VNA)
1420 W. Mockingbird Ln., Suite 700, Dallas, TX 75247