So if you think that GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM, I want to tell you about myself.
Because I am the government, me and hundreds of thousands of people just like me.
For 15 years I worked for a city MEALS-ON-WHEELS program that had a contract with the County of Los Angeles who got the funding from the State of California who got their funding from the Older American’s Act that is funded each year by the Congress of the United States.
I managed the contract with the County of Los Angeles through the city’s senior program that included a meals-on-wheels nutrition operation that fed 600 seniors lunch each day. The program included 13 meals-on-wheels routes and 4 senior centers. The contract also included social workers that assisted seniors who needed help with their social security, applying for food stamps, transportation and lots of other day-to-day needs.
I also got funding from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program that is a part of the Federal Health and Human Services budget. Lastly, we partnered with Kaiser Health Foundation to receive a private grant.
Community Development Block Grants fund meals-on-wheels, WIC (women, infants and children) SNAP (food stamps), school lunches and so much more. These programs save lives, tax dollars, decrease premature births. allow seniors to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.
My grant was more or less the same for the 15 years that I managed the operation. I was allotted about $1.75 per meal for food costs. The contract provided a bit more for packaging and some money for capital equipment. I learned to make miracles happen. My two-dozen employees were almost all part-time, no benefits, paid slightly better than minimum wage. 14 of those employees delivered meals. 4 of them managed the 4 senior centers. 6 of them worked in the commercial kitchen were we cooked every day for 600 senior citizens.
Beyond the one manager for each senior center I had no money for the staff to serve the meals and set up and clean up and do all the endless paperwork to prove we served exactly the number of meals that we reported to LA County each day.
Six people in a commercial kitchen can cook 600 meals, but I still need a dishwasher, someone to receive deliveries and put them in freezers, refrigerators, store rooms, pantries and date each can or carton then rotate the stock. I need people to assemble the meals-on-wheels and help the drivers load up since we
only had 2 hours to deliver all the meals. I still needed a driver to deliver to the other 4 senior centers.
I got very good at staffing without spending any money. First, volunteers. Love them. Can’t use only volunteers to run an operation that has lots of rules and complexity. I certainly did learn to “rely on the kindness of strangers”, as BlancheDuBois so famously said in A Streetcar Named Desire. I couldn’t have run the operation without volunteers. I also worked with group homes for developmentally disabled adults. They came to work for me and got much needed work experience. Some could only do simple tasks like set the table in the dining room; some were quite high functioning and could serve the 70 or so seniors in the dining rooms all by themselves. I found another federally funded program (Title V) that trained seniors who wanted or needed to re-enter the work force. They came to work for me, they got job training, and the Feds paid their wages. Well, only for a short time. They weren’t allowed to stay long unless I hired them.
My biggest problem was trucks. Since we had only two hours after the food leaves the kitchen to deliver the last meal to the last senior, I had to purchase and maintain a small fleet of trucks. Each truck costs about $50,000. They are pick-up trucks with a unit that is half oven and half refrigerator. The Health Department routinely rode along on my routes and checked the temperature of the last meal delivered. These trucks were the only way to keep the meals hot, the milk cold and our seniors safe from getting food poisoning.
My secret source of help turned out to be other City employees. When I couldn’t get money from the City for trucks, I enlisted the help of the people at Parks and Recreation that did have trucks they were going to phase out. They quietly moved them to my operation.
Then I got a grant from the County to pay for the oven/refrigerator units. The guys at the City garage worked with their boss and figured how to put the units on the truck and to do the maintenance so it didn’t show up on my line items in the budget. Everybody, even City government employees, has a mother or a grandmother or someone who has been on meals-on-wheels. They know this program saves lives. As long as we all swore each other to secrecy, the City was none the wiser and 600 seniors got fed every day.
All of these people, the paid employees, the volunteers, the developmentally disabled adults, and the Title V workers are the government. Every layer of government is basically functioning because of people like us. America, WE are the government! Yes, the big shots and the elected politicians are often stupid and incompetent and sometimes corrupt. The people who actually do the work do it too often in spite of our bosses. Your tax dollars buys you a great deal for that $1.75 for food costs.
I am the government. We are the government. The hundreds of us who managed to feed 600 seniors everyday are the government and we are proud of what we do.
P.S Find a senior center near you and volunteer.