Wisconsin News

Sequestration to cut 6,000 meals for elderly in La Crosse County

LA CROSSE, Wis. - The federal spending cuts known as sequestration will impact some of our most vulnerable citizens -- the elderly.

The La Crosse County Aging Unit will see federal funding for its home-delivered meals and meals served at its 15 senior dining sites cut by 5 percent. That adds up to nearly 6,000 missing meals a year.

French Island resident Guilford Hanesworth likes to scope out the menu in the La Crosse County Aging Unit's monthly newsletter.

"Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, sliced pears," Hanesworth reads aloud.

He depends on the meals, which are hand-delivered to his home. It's a necessity now that he can't get around like he used to.


"Well, I unfortunately was told that I had cancer here a short time ago. And unfortunately, I can't do things I wanted to do," said Hanesworth.

La Crosse County Aging Unit Director Noreen Holmes said she's frustrated that Hanesworth's meals are in jeopardy.

"It seems so unreasonable, so avoidable, said Holmes. "We're going to take food away from elderly people? I think it's just crazy."

So La Crosse County Aging Unit's Nutrition Coordinator Dawn Jostrad is giving the elderly a voice.

"If we could have the senators, the congressmen, the people to actually live on what our seniors live on, this would not be happening," said Jostrad.

She sent out more than 1,000 paper plates to people who benefit from the county's senior nutrition services. That's where they're writing messages to Congress.

"These meals are sometimes the only meal that I have a day. I don't drive, so I have to rely on others to get around to doctors' appointments. I only get 16 dollars a month for food," read one of the messages.

She hopes these messages will inspire legislators to act so seniors like Hanesworth never have to go without.

"I don't see how they can do this every day, but every day is something new and it's something even better," Hanesworth said to the woman delivering his meal on Tuesday.

Jostrad said the meals help keep seniors in their homes longer so they don't have to go into nursing homes prematurely.

Holmes said the County Aging Unit hopes to piece together additional money to cover the cuts through grants. It's also considering cutting down on their days of service, delivering multiple meals at one time.

But mostly, Holmes said she's just hoping Congress comes up with a solution.

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