Tuesday, February 08, 2011


A few weeks ago, the sub-committee for Meals On Wheels met to discuss the future of the program and assess the long term operations pertaining to the preparation of the meals.

Chaired by Cathy Terrizzi, with Carl Belfiglio and myself as members, we were introduced to department heads who have the jurisdiction over the programs. Office for Aging Director Anne Cardinale, Dianne Stewart of Geriatric Services and Pat Konopka from Senior Adult Care were joined by Robert Sudlow from the Executive's office to give us an update.

Mr Sudlow started the meeting off right away declaring the issue of delivering meals to seniors throughout the county was in the operational purview of the Executive's office. That kinda set the tone for the meeting.

Chair Terrizzi established that the committee was established to get a better understanding of the threats to the program and determine the long range outlook. Basically to see if our homebound seniors needs are being met.

Anne Cardinale gave us the rundown on the previous conversations regarding the "frozen vs hot" meal delivery and the financial constraints that prompted that conversation. We do know that the contract the county has had with Prestige Foods 2009-2010 has been extended through 2011. So hot meal delivery is safe atleast until the end of this year.

Over 10K hot meals are delivered monthly at the cost of $7.42 each. The cost estimate for the service through 2011 stands at just under 1M if you include the Blizzard Boxes that go out before a forecast storm. Understand that the county doesn't fund the whole program. The cost is diced up so the Fed pays 35%, State 26% and the county 39%. Some of our share is offset by those receiving meals making anonymous donations ranging in the 60K - 70K during the year.

The Meals program currently serves about 460 clients. That number is down a bit from previous years past, but fiscal constraints have cut our ability to serve. What is most interesting is that Suffolk County has a waiting list of 800 and Orange: 500. Ulster is looking at 20. Is this a reflection of better management or more stable older constituency? Either way, Prestige Foods has the option to renew the contract for 2012. Whether they are still at the TechCity location is questionable.

You may ask why all the counties are promoting the Home Meal deliveries in this manor. The number of seniors who decide to stay home rather than move to nursing homes has increased dramatically. The diminished cost to the individual is significant and the impact to counties and their senior housing providers is well worth the program expense. The comfort to our seniors is invaluable.

Legislator Walter Frey, a guest at the meeting, offered a recent report from the Planning Department showing the aging population bubble in Ulster. This will have a serious affect on the program in the not so distant future. Mr Sudlow echoed the concern and noted that the tidal wave of seniors is a subject that we should address early, like this committee is attempting to do now.

Carl asked why there was a $136K increase in the expense line heading into 2011. Turns out it was the result of several years of rollover cost overruns that were not refundable by the Fed. After three years, they are now being allotted for in the budget. This was from exceeding the contracted meal allotment which is allowed, but must be accounted for. One factor is the Medicaid Adult clients which were a result of the "Older American's Act" and it's mandate of service.

There are situations where persons meeting the requirements for the Meals program are either unable or unaware of the program. Even with the small waiting list for the service, I asked what measures were taken to find seniors in our community that we suspect aren't getting the minimal nutritional needs they should. P-I was told persons in all of the services throughout the county are asked to look out for potential clients when offering other services everyday. They are then referred to the OFA where staff will inquire whether that person needs assistance. I then asked if there was a list of seniors in the county that the 33 of us Legislators could access to contact those in our community who we suspect might be in need. Trained staff would have to handle the detailed forms.

End report from the committee should reflect a sense of hot meal delivery security through the year. Since we are in the darkest days of the economic crisis and federal funding is scarce, the positive upturn in the economy may relieve the threat of diminished service, but nothing is certain when the number of clients is expected to explode. The subcommittee will convene again throughout the year.


Anonymous said...

What is more important than safety, heat and food? Thank you for this post Mike. It is easy to forget (until you might need them, I guess..) how many different programs are out there. NS

Anonymous said...

Just think, you were suffocating on the Common Council for 8 years. There is so much more a person can accomplish just by stepping out of their comfort zone. In your case, pushed.
Thank you for being there and giving us a look at the workings of the Legislature. You might go off on some far out rant once in a while, but you always come home to Kingston eventually.

Lou said...


I have read your post again and parts more. Let me see if i have this right. Remember, I support "Meals on Wheels". Per your post. Over 10,000 hot meals are delivered monthly at a cost of $7.42 each at a cost of $74,200 per month. Counting the forcasting of blizzard boxes at $109,600 to get to the one million mark you mention, and the anonymous donations ranging in the 60K - 70K during the year. I have to tell you. That for all the county spends on all the other stuff in the budget, that is not that much.

I guess I have to compare that to the cost of in home nursing care/home visit and being or living in a nursing home for those who cannot care for themselves. And to those who are able to do all that is needed and enjoy home life minus cooking and to get a good hot meal. The list can still go on, such as nolonger able to drive. But still own home and pay their taxes. You get the idea. Is that asking for more than the County of Ulster can afford for a basic in life?

Mike, I am not sorry. For the small percentage of the Ulster County budget that this seems to cost based on your post. I will bet you a good cup of coffee that this is nothing compared to what Ulster County spends on DSS and Medicaid. You know, like spit in the ocean or as in a drop in the bucket. And in this issue the County of Ulster budget is a big bucket. Unless you see it you do not know it happened.

Please share this comment with your peers.


Anonymous said...

Is that the old legislator Meyer(never miss a free meal) in the picture. What were they serving for so he showed up. Had to be something