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Area Meals on Wheels may endure federal shutdown
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Seniors eat lunch at Gainesville’s Senior Life Center on Prior Street. - photo by NAT GURLEY

The federally funded Meals on Wheels program is another service poised for closure because of the continuing government shutdown.

Services should continue for Hall County residents, though.

“We have enough reserves to continue services for an extended period of time,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center. “So while there are other senior centers in the state and the country that may close next week if the shutdown continues, we are committed to remaining open and providing services until we absolutely can’t.”

That’s good news for Elias Segarra, who looks forward to his daily lunches from Meals on Wheels.

“The thing is, it’s healthy food,” he said, which is good as he tries to be mindful of what he eats.

Still, the 83-year-old has taken to “doctoring up” his food. “I have a lot of things I put on it, like spices and stuff,” he admitted, laughing.

Segarra is one of the 300 or so senior citizens in Hall who rely on the program, either through Meals on Wheels or through the hot lunches served at the senior center.

“The problem is that the federal money has been shut down,” said Legacy Link CEO Pat Freeman. “People don’t realize, I think, that things like Meals on Wheels are funded with federal dollars.”

Freeman said Legacy Link, which oversees senior services for 13 North Georgia counties, has enough funding through the Older Americans Act for another five weeks, or until mid-November. If the shutdown is still in effect, services would need to begin winding down then.

Recipients of the meal programs must be notified 30 days prior to the end of the program, so notices may go out Tuesday in anticipation of that mid-November deadline.

“It depends on how much local money each of the programs has in their budget, about how long they’re going to be able to stay open,” Freeman said.

Segarra, who has been in the Meals on Wheels program for around a year, said it’s not just about the food.

His wife died around seven months ago. He has family in Georgia, but he said they lead busy lives and don’t live close enough to drop by his home every day.

While he finds it difficult to move around, he can still drive. He said he would stock up on frozen meals from the supermarket if the program did have to wind down. But, it wouldn’t be the same.

“I don’t only get the meal,” Segarra said. “I get a quart of milk, I get juice, I get dessert, and then I get a fruit. Always a fruit, an apple or a banana or an orange. I get a fruit all the time.”

He also gets the daily paper, and enjoys conversation with the person who brings the food.

“I’m used to the Meals on Wheels,” he added. “It’s good, very good for me.”

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