The nonprofit that runs King County’s Meals on Wheels program managed to bring the popular service’s waiting list down from five months to less than two, but it’s still facing future funding problems that could hurt Meals on Wheels and other programs that help seniors.
Sound Generations, formerly Senior Services, created the waiting list this summer after United Way of King County cut its contribution from $800,000 to $108,000. Adam Porter, the program manager, announced that Meals on Wheels would only accept 25 new clients per month, a 75 percent decrease.
Although Meals on Wheels receives the bulk of its funding from the federal government through the Older Americans Act, that funding is flat, leaving Sound Generations to furnish 39 percent of its budget. When the cut came, the pain was shared across all of its programs.
Sound Generations made progress cutting down the waiting list by plugging in $80,000 from Aging and Disabilities Services, an agency on aging for King County and Seattle, but the money was one-time, said Karen Bystrom, director of marketing and communications for Sound Generations. The $700,000 cut affected other programs too.
“It’s very hard to disconnect Meals on Wheels from everything else that we do,” Bystrom said. “We know that our Meals on Wheels clients use our other services.”
Those lesser-known programs include transportation to medical appointments and a shared-ride van to help homebound seniors get out of the house and complete essential errands. Most people who apply to Meals on Wheels have chronic health conditions that limit their mobility.
There are 200 people on the waiting list on average, and 45 people apply to the program every week.
Meals on Wheels had a 38.7 percent increase in the number of applicants and a 20 percent increase in the number of meals delivered in the past three years.
Sound Generations is working to find stable funding to replace the money it lost, but it’s a footrace between it and other nonprofits, Bystrom said. In the meantime, the organization is using the month of November to raise money for Meals on Wheels.
Money donated online before Nov. 30 will be matched up to $50,000 by Jeannie and Bruce Nordstrom. Alternatively, people shopping at participating Grocery Outlet or Uwajimaya stores can add the cost of a meal to their bills between Nov. 3 and Nov. 13.