Senior meals facing cuts

WESTFIELD – Although  Gov. Duval Patrick has proposed cuts to senior meal services, Rep. Donald Humason said there is no need to panic just yet.
“It’s early,” said Humason. “The House still has to put forward its budget and the Senate has to put forward its budget.  It goes to conference committee and it’s not voted on until June. There’s time.”
Humason said numbers are still coming in and the House and Senate will have more real figures to work with in the next few months. He said he hopes revenues will come in strong.
Humason said, however, if the cuts stay, it would be devastating to some programs.
“If the governor’s budget goes through, it would have a big impact on senior meals,” said Humason.
Westfield Council On Aging Director Tina Gorman said Highland Valley Elder Services provides meals throughout Western Massachusetts, including Westfield.  Within Westfield, Highland Valley provides meals or funding for meals two days per week at the Senior Center, five days per week at South Middle School, five days per week at Washington House, five days per week at East Mountain View apartments, Alice Burke senior apartments two days per week, and all home delivered meals. Gorman said the cuts would affect the entire Westfield delivery program.
“We are all going to be hit by this, and it is certainly going to impact Westfield, simply because we have so many lunch program opportunities here,” said Gorman.
Gorman said each meal costs $6.25, which covers the food, the staff to prepare the food, and the gasoline to bring it from Highland Valley to Westfield, if the food is being transported. Over 220 meals are delivered to older adults in their homes in Westfield, Monday through Friday.
At the center, congregant meals are offered for a donation.
“They can put in nothing, most of them put in a dollar – some put in two – but they don’t have to put in anything,” said Gorman.
Coincidentally, this year, Gorman said she will receive $6.25 in grant money per elder from the state and there are 8,000 seniors in Westfield. Grants are based on population.
Gorman said if the budget goes forward, she and other senior meal providers will be looking for new ways to continue services.
“This budget cut is definitely going to have an impact and other options will need to be explored,” she said.

Lauren Connolly contributed to this report.

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