News & Updates

Opinion: Impact of Proposed Federal Budget Cuts

By Pamela S. Bechtel, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels of Lehigh Colunty & JoAnn Nenow, Executive Director, Meals on Wheels of Northampton County

Our social service safety net is under greater threat than we have seen in recent times. The proposed fiscal year 2018 federal budget includes decreases for sources of funding that support Meals on Wheels programs in the Lehigh Valley and across the country.

These decreases include funding for the Older Americans Act, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid and elimination of the Community Development Block Grant. If these cuts are put in place, private funding sources (such as individual contributions and grants) will have to be stretched even farther to meet the growing need for home-delivered meals for our home-bound neighbors.

Federal funding provides the foundation for the Meals on Wheels nationwide network. Consider these facts: Eight out of ten Meals on Wheels programs receive federal funding in some form. And two out of three of these programs rely on federal funding to cover 1/3 or more of their operating budget.

To meet the need for home-delivered meals, wellness checks and friendly visits to more than 2,400 clients here in the Lehigh Valley, our two Meals on Wheels programs in Lehigh and Northampton counties depend on a combination of federal funding, private donations, state funding and sliding-scale fees.  Now is the time to invest further in this vital public-private partnership to ensure our vulnerable seniors are not forgotten.

Any federal cuts will force Meals on Wheels programs across the country to make tough choices, including the possibility of creating a waiting list for meals, reducing the number of days meals are served or eliminate special diets and preferences. This would be devastating to those who need our program. Our clients cannot cook or shop for themselves and they need home-delivered meals because they have no other way to get the nutritious meals they need to improve their health and well-being. Many of them need special medically tailored meals.

We know that 96 percent of our clients tell us that Meals on Wheels provides them with their main source of food. If we are forced to cut back and serve fewer seniors, these vulnerable at-risk people will be hungry and their health will be compromised. How can we make them wait?

Reductions or even level federal funding will only make matters worse, as the demand for Meals on Wheels is already significant and rapidly growing. One in six seniors struggles with hunger every day, and the senior population is expected to double by 2050.

According to Christine Miccio, Director of Bureau of Aging Services at the PA Department of Aging (PDA), with more than 3.9 million Baby Boomers projected to become eligible for aging services in Pennsylvania by 2020, PDA anticipates the demand for home-delivered meal services will “rise concurrently and become that much more important to helping to ensure that the nutritional and health needs of seniors are adequately met while helping them to age in place in their homes and communities.”

Older Americans Act nutrition programs are already serving 23 million fewer meals today than they were in 2005, due to funding failing to keep pace with an increasing need. And on top of federal funding cuts are state budget cuts, increasing transportation and food costs and the increasing number of nonprofit organizations who are accessing the same donor pools for funding.

At this critical time, when both the need and demand for nutritious meals are substantial and growing, Congress must make the needs of our most vulnerable and isolated seniors a higher priority. Now is the time to tell our Representatives and Senators to save lunch for our clients by protecting and increasing federal funding for Meals on Wheels programs and putting a balanced budget in place.


Highmark Walkers, Donors and Sponsors Raise $18,825

Walk2017team piccompressed

On June 3, 58 hardy walkers braved the rain to participate in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community and raised $18,825 to subsidize 5088 meals for low-income clients.

We appreciate the support of the following major sponsors:

Platinum: TDS Technologies, The Pidcock Company, & The Hartford

Gold: American Bank, Olympus Corporation Of The Americas, Dun & Bradstreet, Country Meadows, Fellowship Community, & Jamie & Tom Koch & family

Silver: Campbell Rappold & Yurasits, LLS Graphics, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Lehigh County Medical Society & Servpro of Easton, Bethlehem & Whitehall

Top 5 individual fundraisers: Joy Reed, Lisa Oldt, Dawn Davis, Michele Grasso and Tracey Huffman

Top 5 teams: Meals on Wheels office, The Pidcock Company, Fellowship Community, The Hartford and Servpro of Easton, Bethlehem & Whitehall.

Volunteer Matt McTish won the Kindle Paperwhite Reader donated as an incentive prize by Joy Reed. Matt graciously donated this prize back to Meals on Wheels to be used as a raffle prize for our Bountiful Bowl fundraising event set for November 10.

Meals on Wheels Awarded a $16,896 Subaru Share the Love Grant

Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County is proud to announce it has received a $16,896 grant from Meals on Wheels America for its participation in Subaru of America’s ninth annual Share the Love Event. During the event held from November 17, 2016 through January 3, 2016, Subaru of America, Inc. donated $250 for every new Subaru vehicle purchased or leased to the customer’s choice of participating charities, including Meals on Wheels America, of which Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County is a Member.

Michele Grasso, Director of Development and Communications, said: “This year we need to raise $650,000 to meet the need for home-delivered meals, friendly visits and well-being checks for 450 homebound seniors and adults with disabilities each weekday. We cannot thank Subaru of America enough for supporting our program and hundreds across the country so that we may meet our mission of helping our clients to live nourished lives in their own homes, where they want to be.”

Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County partnered with Ciocca Subaru during the 2016 holiday season to raise funds and awareness of senior isolation and hunger in Lehigh County. Subaru employees delivered meals and learned first-hand the importance of this service that helps people live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.

Executive Directors of Meals on Wheels Lehigh & Northampton on Proposed Federal Budget Cuts

From Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County Executive Director, Pamela S. Bechtel and Meals on Wheels of Northampton County Executive Director JoAnn Bergeron Nenow

The first budget blueprint to Congress has caused a great deal of concern and confusion. Many media outlets, for instance, incorrectly reported initially that the government was defunding Meals on Wheels programs.


We received a lot of unexpected attention as a result – and a lot of concern from the people we serve, our dedicated volunteers and the public at large. We need to separate fact from fiction so people understand the ramifications that proposed federal budget cuts could have.


Meals On Wheels is not a federal program and, thus, can’t be eliminated by any federal budget. Meals on Wheels is a proven public-private partnership that successfully improves the quality of life for our most vulnerable seniors and adults with disabilities. We ensure that our clients receive the nutrition they need to stay healthy and live in their homes for as long as possible.


Our Meals on Wheels programs in Northampton and Lehigh counties are independent nonprofit organizations and aren’t chapters of a national organization. This year, we must raise a combined total of $1.2 million to meet the needs of our community.


Our funding comes from a number of sources. Our programs depend on client payments that are on a sliding scale but don’t cover the cost of their meals. We also depend on government funding, which accounts for about one-fourth of funding for both of our agencies. This funding includes the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program – a program that the budget blueprint would discontinue.


Over the past five years, we have received more than $280,000 in grant monies from our counties’ CDBG programs. These grants helped to purchase meals, commercial kitchen equipment as well as fresh produce from area farms through our Better Fresh Project, an initiative that incorporates locally grown fruits and vegetables into our clients’ daily meals.


Of greater concern is the proposed 17.9-percent cut in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services. The primary source of federal government funds for Meals on Wheels programs under the Older Americans’ Act (OAA) comes from this department.  Nationally, 35 percent of the total funding for Meals on Wheels (both for senior center meals and home-delivered programs) comes from OAA.


Details for if, or how, OAA will be impacted by the proposed budget have not yet been released, but any cuts to OAA will surely have an impact on Pennsylvania and our local Meals on Wheels programs.


Our state ranks fourth among all states in the percentage of people who are 65 and older. By 2030, Pennsylvania’s 60-and-older population is expected to be 29 percent of the population—approximately 4 million people.


Governor Wolf’s Bureau of Aging Director, Christine Miccio, told the House Aging and Adult Services Committee that, with more than 3.9 million Baby Boomers projected to become eligible for aging services in Pennsylvania by 2020, the department anticipates the demand for congregate and home delivered services to rise concurrently.


Here in the Lehigh Valley, we expect to serve 565,000 meals this year to our clients and to those whom we serve under meal contracts. We are serving 24 percent more meals than we did just four years ago.  Trends in our aging demographics show that the need for our program will continue to increase.


We have proudly served our community for more than 45 years and will do so for many more years to come. While we will continue to provide meal deliveries, friendly visits and other programs such as grocery shopping services, the proposed budget cuts, if enacted, will force us to find additional sources of private funding which will be challenging.


Congress will ultimately decide how funds will and won’t be allocated in the next budget, but a 17.9-percent cut in funding to the Department of Health and Human Services and the potential loss of CDBG funding are truly worrisome.



Donations to Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County Help Your Homebound Neighbors

When you donate to our program, you can rest assured that your money will be used for meals to a homebound senior or adult with a disability living in Lehigh County.

Meals on Wheels programs across the country are not chapters of a national organization. Although they may belong to Meals on Wheels America, which provides education and advocacy services, they operate independently.

Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County was founded in 1971 by a group of concerned local citizens who learned of an Allentown couple almost starving because they had no family to help them. Our founders never wanted this to happen again in Lehigh County.

About 23% of our budget comes from government funding. If this funding was cut, we would have to find additional money from our community or institute a waiting list for our program. Seniors can’t wait–so we depend upon our community for the majority of the $650,000 we need to raise this year.

Meals on Wheels Elects Executive Board and Members at Annual Meeting

At its Annual Meeting today, Meals on Wheels of Lehigh County Board members elected the Agency’s  2017 executive board:  President, Lisa A. Luciano, Lafayette Ambassador Bank; Vice-President, Brooke Griffiths, Lehigh Valley Health Network; Treasurer, Rosemary Lamaestra, RLB Accountants; and Secretary, Pamela Koons-Hartnett, St. Luke’s Health Network.

Kim Laurito, American Bank and Cindy Merritt, Buckno, Lisicky and Co. were reelected to serve two-year terms.  Pat Blahnick, Wells Fargo Bank, was elected to a six-year term.

The Board bid farewell to outgoing President and Board Member, Julie Profilet-Saucier, KCBA Architects, who has served the Agency for six years.

Meals on Wheels Receives a $5,000 Community Partnership Grant from the Lehigh Valley Foundation

Thank you to the Community Partnership Fund of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation for its $5,000 grant to subsidize meals for low-income clients.

This discretionary grantmaking by the Foundation during the 2016-17 grant cycle is supported by several funds that make up the Community Partnership.

Community and Volunteers Bring Holiday Cheer

Every year our clients receive gifts from members of our community, but this year was extra special. Every one of our 450 clients received at least one gift.

This generous support means so much to our homebound clients. Thanks so much to those on the following list for bringing holiday cheer.

And, thank you so much to our volunteers who went above and beyond delivering gifts as well as providing their own gifts to clients in addition to meals, groceries, pet food and litter, soups and frozen weekend packs.

Happy holidays!

Donated Gifts for Clients 2016

Air Products Operation Santa Claus—45 large gifts for clients

Allentown Garden Club—holiday arrangements in mugs for every client

Anonymous crocheted lap blankets

Crazy Quilters—handmade placemats

Caregivers of America— set up giving trees throughout the community and community members donated gifts


Ten Thousand Villages—customers donated ornaments

GS Cadette Troop 6232—decorated bags to wrap gifts

3900 Hamilton St Shopping Center—asked customers to donate items

Home Instead—set up giving trees throughout the community and community members donated gifts

Lehigh Valley Health Network employees—30 table-top trees with gifts

Meals on Wheels Volunteers

A couple of Meals on Wheels Clients sent homemade ornaments & crafts for other clients

Alyssa Thomas and Larry Peck

Union UCC church

Salisbury Elementary School First Graders

16th Annual Bountiful Bowl Raises $55,000


Thanks to our sponsors, guests and supporters, the 16th Annual Bountiful Bowl was our most successful ever—raising $55,000. The money raised will subsidize at least 13,000 meals for our homebound clients.

250 guests enjoyed a wonderful evening of camaraderie, great food prepared by Sodexo Dining Services, an open bar and musical entertainment by Roger Latzgo in a beautiful setting at DeSales University. The evening included a silent auction of handcrafted bowls and other treasures as well as gift baskets and gift certificates; libation raffle, and live auction with a chef event, sporting events, condo vacation, wine tasting, and flowers for every season.
This year Mary Pat Stark was honored as the recipient of the Second Annual Bob Wood Legacy Award. This award was created by Bob’s family and Meals on Wheels to be given to someone who exemplifies Bob’s generosity of spirit and care for his community, especially in the area of ensuring that members of our community do not suffer from hunger.
Bob was instrumental in the creation of the Meals on Wheels program and remembered the beginning of the program as an example of how Lehigh County leaders and citizens put into place a program that would ensure that the people who needed home-delivered meals could have full lives. “The program wasn’t just for convenience, but instead helped people to stay in their own homes and be independent.” The Meals on Wheels program, Bob said, “is an example of institutional commitment leveraged by people who want to make a difference.”
Mary Pat Stark of Emmaus, PA is the mother of 4, a grandmother of 7, a wife of one and friend to many, many people. She has room for all of them in her heart and her life, but still finds time for volunteering. Fortunately, Meals on Wheels has been the recipient of her big heart, creative mind, infectious laugh and engaging personality.
Mary Pat has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels since March, 2001. She has driven on Route 21 since she started; currently on the first, third and fifth Wednesdays of each month. This is the Agency’s longest route, taking up to 2.5 hours. She’s logged 6,416 miles and 1,090 hours delivering about 13,000 meals. In addition, she served on the Meals on Wheels Board for 4 years.
She is the one the agency calls when they need to create a fun volunteer recognition or anniversary event or come up with volunteer recruitment ideas. She never fails to come up with something new and fun and takes everyone around her along for the ride. Mary Pat is the one with the ideas, the deals and attention to all the details.
Meals on Wheels clients, volunteers and staff truly benefit from all of her generosity and spirit.

Thank you to all the members of our community who donated money or items for this event as well as the following:
The Bountiful Bowl Committee: Brooke Griffiths & Cindy Merrit, Co-Chairs, Connie Archer, Pat Beldon, Audrey Fronheiser; Pamela Koons-Hartnett, Pam Lackman, Rosemarie Lamaestra, Mary Anne Johnson, Sue McCann, Mary Pat Stark and Norma Visnar.
Event volunteers: Pat Blahnik, Jane Crowther, Karen Haberern, Marilyn Howard, Grace Reed, Joy Buckley Reed, Lisa Russo and Audrey Wallace
Volunteer photographer: John Hughes
Volunteer auctioneer: Ray Starner
Major Sponsors:
Media: ASR Media Productions and The Morning Call
Bountiful Harvest: Aesculap, Inc.; Cross America Partners; People First FCU; Top Star; and The Topper Family
Basket of Plenty: Pat & Sandy Beldon; BB&T; Buckno Lisicky & Co.; Burkholder’s HVAC; HCSC Enterprises, Inc.; The Hartford; Liberty Property Trust; Doug & Mary Anne Johnson; The Pidcock Company; In Honor of Mary Pat Stark; Talen Energy; St. Luke’s Physician Group; and Valley Extrusions
Cornucopia: Bradley Pulverizer Company; Fellowship Community; Health Network Laboratories; LVHN Population Health; Olympus; PPL; Law Office of Michael Santanasto; Wells Fargo Bank Regional Office; and Working Dog Press

Choose to Share the Love With Vulnerable Seniors

Exciting news! For the ninth year running, the Meals on Wheels network is participating in the Subaru Share the Love Event. Over for the past eight years, Subaru has donated nearly $10 million to Meals on Wheels—that’s the equivalent of more than 1.4 million meals to seniors across the country!

Why does Subaru support Meals on Wheels? Too many seniors are struggling to stay independent and healthy. One in four seniors lives alone in isolation and one in six seniors might not know from where their next meal is coming. This is simply unacceptable, which is why Organization Name provides the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks to the seniors of area. This vital support keeps seniors in their own homes, where they want to be.

We’re incredibly grateful to Subaru and its retailers for supporting our organization and the seniors we serve. With that in mind, we thought you might want to learn a little bit more about the Share the Love Event.


This November 17, 2016 through January 3, 2017, for every new Subaru vehicle leased or sold, Subaru will donate $250 to the customer’s choice of participating charities. Meals on Wheels America is one of four national participating charities, and has been since the inception of the event. And through this campaign, as a Member of Meals on Wheels America, Organization Name will receive a share of the revenue earned in State.

You might not be in the market to purchase a new car, but if you are—please look into the Share the Love Event to learn more. If you’re not shopping for a new vehicle, you can still help by spreading the word to your family and friends. A few quick and easy ways to do that:

– Share this blog post/article!
– Share our posts about Share the Love on Facebook:

And remember– this holiday season, you can ensure our senior neighbors are not forgotten when you buy or lease a new Subaru and select Meals on Wheels America as your charity of choice.

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