Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Demand for Meals on Wheels outstrips funds

Meals On Wheels volunteer Sandee Asplin, 62, organizes a meal for a recipient in Tampa on Wednesday. She delivers meals five days a week and sometimes picks up a double route.


Meals On Wheels volunteer Sandee Asplin, 62, organizes a meal for a recipient in Tampa on Wednesday. She delivers meals five days a week and sometimes picks up a double route.

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 there have been able to keep pace.

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."

In Pinellas, 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.

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 said that to qualify, participants must be 60 or older or disabled. State guidelines, she said, are used to assess who is neediest, with those lacking other resources given priority.

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

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

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."

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."

Will Van Sant can be reached at or (727) 445-4166.

Fast facts

To help

• To volunteer or donate to Meals on Wheels in Pinellas County, call (727) 573-9444.

• In Pasco County, call:

Port Richey: (727) 834-3340

Dade City: (352) 521-5174

Land O'Lakes: (813) 929-1231

Demand for Meals on Wheels outstrips funds 12/31/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 9:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  2. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  3. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  4. The people you meet along O.J. Howard Lane


    OJ Howard (far right) is seen in a photo from his adolescent years at Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Howard served as an usher in addition to attending regular services at this church.