DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Advocates for a program that delivers meals to seniors in northeast Iowa are looking for support from their congressmen to defend the service amid potential budget cuts.

The Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging recently delivered nearly 700 paper plates to U.S. Rep. Rod Blum's and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley's offices, The Telegraph Herald reported . The plates had notes from area seniors about the importance of the Meals on Wheels program, which delivers nutritious meals to seniors.

The agency serves 18 counties, including Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque and Jackson counties. Budget cuts over the past five years have forced the agency to provide only 1,000 meals a day, placing nearly 100 seniors on a waiting list. The agency is bracing for another $100,000 decrease in state funding this fall, said Greg Zars, deputy director.

"We were serving more than we could afford and were pulling cash from other programs," Zars said. "We've also cut a lot of transportation services to pay for meals. We made the decision this spring that to do any more of that would be a bridge too far, and we had to wait-list meals."

The funding cuts have left many Iowa seniors struggling to remain independent and healthy, Zars said.

Kathy Sturm, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, said the program doesn't just offer food, but it also provides critical safety checks on vulnerable seniors.

"You see a lot of Dubuque you don't normally see," Sturm said. "And that population, all elderly, most of them are confined to their homes needing the meal. And sometimes I get the feeling we're the only person they see all day. ... Many times, we know this probably is their only meal of the day."

The program receives most of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. President Donald Trump's administration has proposed cutting the department's funding by nearly 20 percent.


Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com