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Meals program faces money crunch
By Tiffeny Owens
The Decatur Daily

Daily photo by John Godbey
Rochelle Smith delivers two hamburger meals to Meals on Wheels client Earl Thrasher at his Southwest Decatur home.

Higher food costs, governmental budget cuts and fewer public donations are eating into Meals on Wheels’ resources to feed hundreds of home-bound residents in Morgan County.

Officials face the prospect of having to stop taking new clients until the budget for the 40-year-old, community-based program recovers. Its $300,000 annual budget is down by 20 percent, said coordinator Cindy Anderson of Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, a non-profit that operates Meals on Wheels.

From Monday through Friday, 350 people along 18 routes across Decatur, Hartselle and Falkville receive hot meals from the program. More than 85,000 meals have been delivered to elderly and disabled residents this year, at an average of $3.50 per meal, Anderson said.

The program is funded by donations from the public and local entities, both of which have given less in tight economic times, said CAPNA Chief Executive Officer Michael Tubbs.

“We know there’s a lot of needs in the community now, and giving is trending down,” Tubbs said. “A lot of people just feel tapped out.”

Meals on Wheels’ annual appropriations from United Way of Morgan and local governing entities also have been reduced in the past four years. Meanwhile, food prices have rose by around 15 percent, he said. Last year’s Can-A-Thon fundraiser benefiting local food charities collected the fewest items in its history.

“In 2008, Meals on Wheels actually had a good surplus of funds,” Tubbs said. “But with fewer funds coming in each year, we’ve been chewing through those reserves. Still, it’s amazing to go down to the kitchen in the mornings and see what our people are able to do with less.

“We’re not going to lose the quality of meals. It might just mean we can’t take new clients or we trim it down to 320 people that we serve every day.”

Tubbs said for several clients, the meals they receive are the only ones they get each day. Many eat half for lunch, put the rest in their refrigerator and warm it up later for dinner, he said.

“When someone comes to their door with a meal, they’re also getting the social interaction, a personal connection,” Anderson said. “In a lot of ways, that’s worth more than the meal.”

Donations made to Meals on Wheels through Dec. 31 can be deducted from income taxes, Tubbs said.

Want to help?

  • Checks can be mailed to or dropped off at Community Action Partnership of North Alabama at 1909 Central Parkway S.W., Decatur. Checks can be made out to CAPNA for Meals on Wheels.

  • Those interested in volunteering can call coordinator Cindy Anderson at 256-260-3103 or email her at

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