August 03, 2021

Manchin, Collins, Vela, Katko Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Home Meals Act

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Filemon Vela (D-TX-34) and John Katko (R-NY-24) reintroduced the Helping Our Most Elderly (HOME) Secure Meals Act, which would purchase, customize and repair vehicles that provide meals to older Americans.  Nearly nine out of ten local senior nutrition programs report there was unmet need for home-delivered meals in their community. To reach seniors in need, these program rely on hot and cold vehicles to properly store food over long distances. Many of those vehicles across the country are in need of serious and costly repairs and others need to be replaced outright.
“According to Meals On Wheels, 8 out of 10 low income, food insecure seniors are not receiving the meals they need. This is simply heartbreaking and unacceptable. Caring for older Americans must be a top priority for all of us. Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation would ensure that our seniors are taken care of and receive the quality home-based nutrition they need along with social interaction, which is essential,” Senator Manchin said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to pass this vital legislation to help our fellow Americans receive the care they deserve.”
“The pandemic has further emphasized the importance of helping older Americans remain in the comfort and safety of their own homes.  Home-delivered meals play an important role in allowing seniors to age in place by providing them with nutritious meals and reducing social isolation,” said Senator Collins.  “By supporting efforts to purchase and repair meal delivery vehicles, our bipartisan bill would strengthen the home-based meal network that helps seniors, including those living in rural communities, put healthy food on their tables.”
The bipartisan, bicameral HOME Meals Act would establish a competitive grant program to repair, replace, and customize home-based meal delivery vehicles that provide nutritious meals to seniors who are restricted to their homes for various reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted seniors and has affected their ability to get food on their own, highlighting the need for home-based meal delivery systems. With the senior population in the United States expected to double by the year 2060, it’s more important than ever to provide nutrition and socialization to older seniors across the country.
“I am proud to reintroduce legislation that will help provide nutrition assistance to seniors in my district. Home-based meal delivery systems have been essential in keeping seniors and those with underlying medical conditions safe from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Representative Vela. “Increasing the availability of these services is critical to ensuring we curtail hunger and food insecurity for our most vulnerable communities.”
“Organizations in my district in Central New York like Meals on Wheels of Syracuse, PEACE, Inc., and the Food Bank of Central New York have played a critical role in ensuring local seniors have access to healthy meals, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Representative Katko. “To advance these efforts, I’m proud to reintroduce the HOME Meals Act. This bipartisan bill empowers states to purchase or repair food storage vehicles for senior meal deliveries, ensuring local organizations have the resources they need to provide for the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The HOME Meals Act would:
  • Establish a 5-year competitive grant program for states to purchase, customize, or repair vehicles that provide meals to older Americans.
  • Authorize $60 million a year through FY2022 to FY2026 for a total of $300 million.
  • Preference for grants will be given to states with:
    • High percentages of individuals who are 60 years of age or older;
    • High rate of individuals at or below poverty line; and
    • Have operating meal delivery programs at the time of application.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the unmet need for seniors needing home delivery nutrition programs. In their November survey, Meals on Wheels found that:
  • When asked if the individuals local programs began serving during the pandemic will still need services when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, 82% of local programs agreed, “New clients are here to stay.”
  • In November, 96% of local senior nutrition programs predicted that food and production costs will remain high.
  • In November, 73% of local programs said their safety supply costs/budget had increased; 66% said their meal production costs had increased; and 56% said their labor costs had increased (because of additional hours and/or decreased volunteers). 31% of programs said their costs had risen due to vehicle service and investments costs specifically
  • 62% of local programs said they would not be able to support their current client base without continued infusions of cash beyond their typical reimbursements and contracts.
  • As of July 2021, the demand for services remains high, with Meals on Wheels programs reporting an ongoing increase in older adults and seniors served.
Bill text can be found here.

Background information on the bill can be found here