ROANOKE, Va. -- William McCormick remembers from his working-class upbringing in Covington, Va., that neighbors took care of neighbors.
"Both my parents worked in the mill," he said. "For people in the neighborhood who were hungry we'd make up two or three bags of groceries, put $5 or $10 in it, set it on the porch, knock on the door and leave. We wouldn't tell 'em who did it."
Now McCormick is 70 years old and living alone in a one-bedroom apartment in a six-story building. Only about 40 of the building's 144 units are occupied. The parking lots are barren and the hallways are dingy with torn carpets. McCormick considers the building "spooky."
He's lived here since 2005, and for most of that time he has benefited from food charity every week day -- not left at his door anonymously, but brought to him by Meals On Wheels volunteers. Since 1972 the Administration on Aging has provided federal funding for senior nutrition, and today volunteers from some 5,000 Meals On Wheels affiliates across the country distribute a million meals a day.
But federal funding for senior nutrition has been reduced by budget cuts known as sequestration, meaning less food for old people here and elsewhere. The White House has said the cuts would mean 4 million fewer meals for seniors this year, while the Meals On Wheels Association of America put the loss at 19 million meals. In general, the federal government subsidizes only a portion of the cost of every meal, so whether individual seniors will stop receiving food really depends on the circumstances of whatever local agency serves them.