After the White House suggested "deep cuts" to Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit that serves 2.4 million people nutritious meals across the country, there was a general sense of alarm on social media on Thursday. It didn't help matters when Mike Mulvaney, Trump's budget director, asserted that programs like Meals on Wheels "sounds great" but don't ultimately work, which has prompted its own backlash. But in the wake of what is troubling news to many, there is some encouragement: donations to Meals on Wheels have surged.
According to the Washington Post, the donations skyrocketed to nearly 50 times their daily rate on Thursday. This could potentially help offset any cuts that could be felt by the 5,000 local branches of the service. According to CNN, though the block grants that Trump has proposed slashing only fund a small fraction of the nationwide operation, the local chapters rely on the federal funding for carrying out day-to-day operations and making sure than they're still able to deliver meals. The New York Times says that 30 percent of the money needed to deliver hot meals comes from the federal budget through the Older Americans Act, which many feel could also be on the chopping block in Trump's effort to cut discretionary spending.
In addition to the number of donations made on Thursday, spokespeople from Meals on Wheels said that volunteer signups have increased 500 percent, and local chapter directors have reported a swell of calls offering to help out.
The New York Times dug into Mulvaney's claim that programs like Meals on Wheels weren't working. The Times cites peer-reviewed studies in the medical field that found that Meals on Wheels helped ease diet issues, food insecurity, and even contributed to a lower loneliness scale for senior adults. A 2013 study cited by the Times even found that investing in programs like Meals on Wheels could lead to "less reliance on institutionalized care."
"We can debate the cost-effectiveness of Meals on Wheels, but it would be wrong to say that it’s not effective," Aaron E. Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine wrote in the Times. "There are plenty of results, and I’ve highlighted only some of the most rigorous research available. Most programs we fund through tax dollars have far less evidence to support them, if any evidence at all."
In the meantime, Meals on Wheels has assured its clients that services have not been affected, and they will continue to serve the millions of senior citizens who might not have hot meals otherwise.