El Paso County nutrition program delivers free meals to seniors throughout government shutdown
Updated: Wednesday, October 16 2013, 10:30 PM MDT
By: Bill Melugin
EL PASO, Texas --
Over the last two weeks, the government shutdown has crippled funding for some programs that rely on federal funding, but the El Paso County nutrition program has stood strong, and has continued to deliver meals to seniors in need every morning, Monday through Thursday.
The program delivers around 1,500 meals to hungry seniors each day, many of whom rely on the food just to survive.
KFOX14 tagged along for some of the deliveries in the Lower Valley Wednesday morning.
Many of the seniors called the nutrition program a "lifeline."
"I get food stamps but it's not enough," Lauro Morales said. "I get Social Security for $250, that goes to rent and phone, and I'm left with nothing, so I don't even have enough money for food."
Misty Hughes told KFOX14 she has been disabled for 10 years, and just started using the program.
"It helps because we don't have enough food, I didn't get my food stamps on the 13th, so it helps until you find out where they went," Hughes said.
The process all starts at one of the 21 senior center locations throughout the county.
KFOX14 stopped by the Southside Senior Center kitchen at 600 S. Ochoa.
The center uses Bateman Senior Meals as its vendor, and cooks up the meals bright and early each morning.
All deliveries are done between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. along 28 different routes.
"The nutrition program is very important to the seniors, sometimes it's the only hot meal these seniors will receive," said Lewie Garcia, the manager of the program. "They'll have a cereal or fruits in the morning, the hot meal we are able to provide them for that day, and we usually give them a frozen meal for the next day."
Garcia told KFOX14 the program receives funding from the federal, state and local levels, and that funding can be cut off at any point in time, especially with the government shutdown.
Luckily for the program, the county isn't going to let that happen.
"The county is willing to step in and cover the costs for a short time until the federal government is able to get back on their feet and reimburse us," Garcia said.
Garcia said the meals help give the seniors at least a little bit of stability in their lives.
"I just got evicted. They gave me 10 days. I don't even make enough money to rent an apartment," Morales said.
"If it would get cut off, then most of us would probably starve," Hughes said.