Meals on Wheels America, the umbrella organization for 5,000 providers of home-delivered meals for seniors, said on Saturday that online donations have surged since the White House released a proposed budget that could lead to a big drop in its funding.
The organization, which provides advocacy services for the national network, received about $50,000 on Thursday after the budget blueprint was announced, compared with $1,000 on a typical day.
President Donald Trump's first budget proposal includes a 17.9 percent cut for fiscal 2018 in funds for the Department of Health and Human Services, which provides most of the government support for Meals on Wheels, the organization said.
The budget proposal did not say how the cut would affect the Administration for Community Living, the HHS agency that funds nutrition programs for the elderly, Meals on Wheels spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette said.
Meals on Wheels said on its website that it is difficult to imagine a scenario under which the next federal budget would not have an impact on its services.
"While Meals on Wheels America and local Meals on Wheels programs are seeing an uptick in giving, it does not replace federal funding," Bertolette told Reuters in an email.
The White House referred questions about the HHS budget to the department.
An HHS representative referred to a statement from Secretary Tom Price released earlier this week. "HHS is dedicated to fulfilling our department’s mission to improve the health and well-being of the American people. This budget supports that mission and will help ensure we are delivering critical services to our fellow citizens," the statement said.
Trump's budget proposal calls for a sharp increase in military spending and a like reduction in most discretionary non-defense programs, prompting a wave of concern from Democrats and some of the president's fellow Republicans.
Bertolette said the national Meals on Wheels association did not know whether its local members have seen a similar jump in donations.
One in six seniors "struggles with hunger," according to the organization, which provides its services free of charge for those who cannot afford to pay.
Seniors who have fresh meals delivered daily show greater improvement in health and well-being than those who get frozen meals delivered once a week or no meals at all, the organization said, citing research from Brown University and funded by AARP Inc.
According to the website, Meals on Wheels America hosts a resource center on nutrition with the help of federal funding.
(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler)