Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Demand for Meals on Wheels jumps, but funding does not

Meals On Wheels volunteer Sandee Asplin, 62, organizes a meal for a recipient in Tampa on Wednesday. This is Asplin’s second delivery route of the day. She delivers meals five days a week.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Meals On Wheels volunteer Sandee Asplin, 62, organizes a meal for a recipient in Tampa on Wednesday. This is Asplin’s second delivery route of the day. She delivers meals five days a week.

Demand for Meals on Wheels in the Tampa Bay area has jumped in the past year and waiting lists have grown, leaving some elderly and disabled people with one less food option as 2009 begins.

The problem is most dire in Pinellas and Pasco counties, where people are being turned away. Need is also up in Hills­borough County, though program managers have been able to keep pace.

Steve King, who directs the largest of Hillsborough County's three Meals on Wheels operations in Tampa, said demand for meals has grown 28 percent since March.

But his waiting list is only two people, and they'll soon be getting hot meals once drivers can adjust their routes.

"We're definitely getting more calls," King said. "And we're handling them, but they get backed up and maybe aren't handled as timely as we'd like."

Things are much worse in Pinellas, where the nonprofit Neighborly Care Network based in St. Petersburg runs the program. Funding comes from the state and federal governments and private donors.

Program spokeswoman Sandi Narron said her group serves a daily meal to 1,600 elderly and homebound residents. In past years, the waiting list could grow as high as 100, but with a new infusion of funding, the backlog would get erased.

In the past year Narron said demand has increased while funding has not. The waiting list is now 400 names long, she said, but was as high as 500 a few months ago.

In Pasco, program manager Gabriel Papadopoulos said there is a waiting list of 148 people wanting Meals on Wheels. A year ago, he said, there was no waiting list.

The state, county and federal governments as well as private donors fund Meals on Wheels in Pasco. Papadopoulos said funds for the program declined 5 percent in 2008, with the waiting list a sad consequence.

"Absolutely, it's a concern," he said. "My heart goes out to these people."

Unlike in Pinellas and Pasco, Hillsborough's programs are all funded by private donors or businesses, so they are not reliant on government funding. The Tampa branch delivers to roughly 500 homebound people daily, King said, and makes another 250 daily deliveries to larger organizations, such as mental health agencies.

King said his program was in the position of not having to turn anyone away.

"We're far from our limit of what we can handle," he said. "We could serve two to three times what we're serving, but that would involve a lot of changes and hiring more staff, things of that nature."

In Pinellas, Largo resident Nancy Seaborn has been waiting a year to get a spot. She lives on social security disability and in May was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS. The wait has been infuriating, she said.

"I am a senior citizen, I have a debilitating disease," said the 66-year-old. "I don't know why I can't get on Meals on Wheels."

Narron, the spokeswoman for the Pinellas program, said that to qualify participants must be 60 or over or disabled. State guidelines, she said, are used to assess who is neediest, with those lacking other resources given priority.

Narron said she feels bad that everybody can't be helped, but she said the program is run fairly.

"Somebody else is more needy than her," she said of Seaborn.

Will Van Sant can be reached at [email protected] or 727-445-4166.

Demand for Meals on Wheels jumps, but funding does not 12/31/08 [Last modified: Thursday, January 1, 2009 11:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack

    World

    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  2. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath

    K12

    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  3. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.
  4. Study: Pollution kills 9 million a year, costs $4.6 trillion

    World

    NEW DELHI — Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

    New Delhi’s landmark India Gate, a war memorial, is engulfed in morning smog on Friday.
  5. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.