Donors Race To Support Meals On Wheels

Meals on Wheels America last week had about 8,000 followers on Twitter. Not a bad number but nowhere near the 88,000 followers the Arlington, Va.-based office had by Monday morning.

In response to President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts on Thursday, the organization received about 50 times the normal amount of donations and an almost 500 percent jump in volunteer sign-ups through its Ad Council website, www.AmericaLetsDoLunch.org

“This is to Meals on Wheels America to support our national efforts. Local programs fundraise individually and we can assume that there was likely a groundswell of local support as well,” Jenny Bertolette, vice president of communications for the national office, said via email.

There were more than 308,000 tweets by almost 163,100 users using the keyword #MealsOnWheels or Meals on Wheels in association with the Trump budget, roughly 9,000 tweets an hour, according to Bertolette.

There were 36,445 unique users engaged with Meals on Wheels’ Twitter account (@_MealsOnWheels) on Thursday, with its content receiving more than 53,000 engagements. Its Twitter audience increased by almost 50,000 in one day alone. On Thursday morning, the national office had about 8,000 followers on Twitter, and that number skyrocketed to more than 88,000 by Monday morning.
The total potential reach of the activity, people either tagging the account or using the hashtag, was more than 587 million, according to Bertolette.

Trump’s “Budget Blueprint,” also known as the “skinny budget,” was released last week and proposed a slew of reductions in discretionary spending across all departments, except Homeland Security, Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The portions of the president’s budget that have been released so far include the elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBD) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The federal programs are doled out to states, which determine what they fund, and in some cases, that funding is assigned to local Meals On Wheels programs. It’s unclear whether the proposed federal budget would impact the Older Americans Act, which also helps to fund Meals on Wheels nationally, providing as much as 35 percent of its funding.

With a proposed 18-percent cut to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget, Meals On Wheels said it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which funding would not be significantly impacted, President and CEO Ellie Hollander said in a statement.
A third block grant program, the Social Services Block Grant, also provides discretionary money for states to use for nutrition programs. Details on that have not yet been announced but there has been talk in some circles of its elimination.

“The problem with a skinny budget is it is lean on details. So, while we don’t know the exact impact yet, cuts of any kind to these highly successful and leveraged programs would be a devastating blow to our ability to provide much-needed care for millions of vulnerable seniors in America, which in turn saves billions of dollars in reduced healthcare expenses,” Hollander said.

Meals on Wheels America is the oldest and largest national organization support more than 5,000 community-based senior nutrition programs.