By ALAIN GAILLARD
Standing in front of the stove in her kitchen, Marie Melodin, 85, her face wrinkled from age, was putting the last touches on a soup that would be her first meal of the day at around 3 p.m. With her hands shaking due to Parkinson’s disease, she said that her home care aide does not visit on weekends, so she has to fix herself something to eat.
Melodin lives in a two-bedroom apartment building in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and has been retired for more than 20 years. She explained that the $200 she receives monthly from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, does not last the whole month.
“Every time friends come here and see that I need something, they buy it for me,” she said.
She added that she stopped taking food donations from the community health center she used to visit once a week. “They gave me food, such as cereals, I don’t like,” she said. “I don’t like the fact that they are giving me what they want. I am not a kid; I should be able to ask for what I want.”
She has never received help from any of the organizations fighting hunger in New York, such as Citymeals on Wheels, which delivers food to elderly people. She does not even know how to contact them. “No one told me where to go,” she said. “I will ask the nurse when she comes to visit next time.”
According to the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity, Melodin is among the 20 percent of the city’s elderly who are facing hunger at a time when President Donald Trump wants to slash funding for many government agencies, which could impact anti-hunger programs.
Margarette Purvis, president and chief executive officer of Food Bank for New York City, echoed this concern in a statement released on the organization’s website.
“This ‘America First’ budget will deepen and intensify the everyday struggles of poor and vulnerable Americans. We can anticipate that need for emergency food—already insufficient to meet existing demand at local food pantries and soup kitchens—will only increase,” she said. “This budget blueprint . . . also eliminates key resources that help many charities on the front lines operate efficiently and effectively, such as AmeriCorps and the VISTA program.”
After Trump released his budget proposal, many people feared that programs such as Citymeals on Wheels would be crippled. But Beth Shapiro, executive director of Citymeals on Wheels, scrambled to reassure recipients that their meals on supported through the city’s Department for the Aging as part of a public-private partnership. They are not provided by the federal government, and “thus are not currently at risk of being defunded,” she said.
With the proposed Trump budget, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which finances many charities fighting hunger in New York, would experience a 13 percent budget cut that would be slightly more than $6 billion.
Shapiro explained that since the budget outline needs congressional approval and lacks many details about individual agencies, it is still unclear how this overall cut would affect most Older American Act programs.
She also said that Citymeals on Wheels relies on the generosity of its board of directors, the City of New York, sponsors, and other designated donations to cover administrative costs.
Helping to fight hunger among older people since 1981 in New York City, Citymeals on Wheels helps feed 18,000 homebound seniors by delivering meals to their doorsteps all year round.
When Melodin was told that Citymeals of Wheels would deliver food to her doorstep, she was surprised and said, “Having food delivered to my doorstep is very good. It is getting harder and harder for me to walk.”