NYC doesn’t cover full cost of delivering meals to seniors, providers say

Woman hands elderly man meal at his door.

Woman hands elderly man meal at his door. Shutterstock

Organizations providing home-delivered meals to seniors in New York City are saying the city has not paid enough to cover the cost of those services – and its latest request for proposals doesn’t address those concerns.

“Every provider that I’ve spoken to … everybody’s losing money,” said Scott Short, CEO of RiseBoro Community Partnership.  

Allison Nickerson, executive director of LiveOn NY, which represents organizations helps seniors, told NYN Media that rates for offering the program have not been changed over the last 10 years, despite rising wages and food costs. Providers have been losing anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 a year on these contracts, Nickerson said.

The Human Services Council rated the city’s latest request for proposals for the program as high-risk in part because of inadequate funding. According to a Mathematica Policy Research report, the average cost of a home-delivered meal in an urban area is $11.78 while the city Department for Aging is paying $9.58 per meal.

“We lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on our city-funded contract to deliver home-delivered meals – we deliver about 1,500 Meals on Wheels daily,” Short said. “And RiseBoro has been put in the position where we have to raise outside funds to fill that gap.”

Some nonprofits can make up at least part of the cost of the program through voluntary contributions from those who receive meals, Nickerson said, but many of its beneficiaries are poor and homebound. 

“The RFP supports providers to critically evaluate their organizational capabilities and leverage resources while concurrently prioritizing the delivery of nutritious meals to vulnerable older New Yorkers,” Suzanne Myklebust, deputy director of public affairs at the Department for the Aging, said in a statement. “As part of the procurement process, we encourage all interested providers to submit questions regarding this RFP in writing to our Agency Contact Person Mary Graine.”

Nickerson said that the city has been receptive to concerns so far and praised the agency at least standardized rates for providers so they all got equal pay for delivering meals.

“I'm hopeful that we can figure out a solution that works for everybody,” she said.