BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Currently, more than 500 people in the Greater Baton Rouge area get weekly plate dinners free through the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging Meals on Wheels program, but the number of people waiting to receive those hot meals is an even harsher reality.
"We have a waiting list of about 1,500 seniors waiting to get on the program," said Tasha Clark-Amar with the EBR Council on Aging.
That waiting list, according to Clark-Amar, is three to four years long.
However; beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the EBRCOA will receive roughly $7.8 million over the next 10 years through the recent mileage increase. The first plan of action is to eliminate the waiting list and go from feeding seniors five days a week to seven.
"The seniors now have to choose. We provide five meals, some snacks, milk. And now, they're choosing, 'What are we going to eat on the weekend because we didn't have enough resources to feed them for the full seven days. So now we'll be able to feed them for seven days and it's such a blessing," said Clark-Amar.
Susie Parsons, 92, who is legally blind and partially disabled, has been using Meals on Wheels for over 10 years.
"That's the only way I can stay out of a nursing home," said Parsons.
Parson added the take-home meal program is the reason for her independence and calls it nothing short of a God-send.
"Sometimes people tend to think that programs like Meals on Wheels and Social Security are handouts, but they're not. They are taxes that have been paid and the seniors have worked all their lives and paid taxes. This is our time to give them something back from the taxes they're paying," Clark-Amar explained.
Clark-Amar said only five people are responsible for cooking over 300,000 meals a year. The COA hopes to hire more people and boost its output to close to one million meals a year.
"What we do here is about the mission and the service we provide. It's not so much about a paycheck. You go home feeling like you've impacted someone's life, every day," said Clark-Amar.