Budget shortfalls mean some senior citizens in the state are going hungry

Rick Regan is on a hunger strike to bring awareness to the issue of senior citizens going hungry. He was at the Lawrence Senior Center Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010, where he stopped for the one meal he gets each day at senior centers he is visiting around the state. Meals site coordinator Kathryn Newman is pictured helping Regan with his meal.

Senior meal program managers across the state are being forced to make a tough decision: who goes hungry and who doesn’t.

Count Douglas County Senior Meals‘ Manager Kim Wittman among them.

Kim Wittman is the Douglas County Senior Meals Manager

Facing a $15,000 budget shortfall this year, she and a task force decided to no longer provide frozen meals on weekends. Twenty-nine residents were affected.

How to help

Douglas County Senior Meals can use volunteers for everything from packing food to cleaning dishes. It also needs home-delivery drivers who can take regular routes or substitute for regular drivers.

If interested in volunteering or receiving a meal, contact Kim Wittman, manager, at 842-0543.

“The decision was hard,” Wittman said. “The folks who were affected really depended on our meals for their base nutrition. They are individuals who don’t have a lot of family support around them and have difficulty preparing meals for themselves.”

But, it was that decision or affecting more residents by starting waiting lists.

Last year, the program provided 65,557 meals through dining or home delivery services. Anyone 60 or older is eligible to receive one meal per weekday. On average, the program feeds about 260 residents per day.

Wittman said she is facing the possibility of a $35,000 shortfall next year.

Statewide, these programs have lost $1.2 million in funding or 221,811 meals. It has affected 880 seniors.

Rick Regan, a Wichita radio personality, has been on a weeklong tour to raise awareness about the issue. He serves on the board of Aging Projects Inc., a Wichita area-based senior agency, that has made that same tough decision.

He stopped Wednesday at the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt.

“Seniors have paid their dues. We are talking about the people who have fought for our country. They’ve fed and clothed all of us,” Regan said. “Letting Grandma and Grandpa go hungry, that can’t happen.”