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Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-NH, chats with area seniors during a stop at the Windham Senior Center Tuesday morning. The congresswoman said she's worried that recent sequestration cuts to social service programs, including Meals on Wheels, could have devastating effects on the lives of Granite State elderly residents. (COURTESY)

Talking cuts

Kuster talks cut to Meals on Wheels in Windham

WINDHAM — Rockingham County's Meals on Wheels program is grappling with federal budget cuts of $81,000.

Rockingham County Nutrition Executive Director said she and her staff provide hot meals to a dozen different communities in the county most days.

"We've already laid off one person; now we're lost as to what we'll do next," she said Tuesday, motioning to the roomful of seniors gathered for lunch at the Windham Senior Center. "It's a very, very bad situation."

Congresswoman Annie Kuster toured the center Tuesday morning, chatting with Windham Meals on Wheels program coordinator Barbara Coish and the dozen or so seniors gathered inside for a friendly game of cards or a hot, midday meal.

Kuster said she's calling on Congress to replace recent, across-the-board sequestration cuts with a more balanced plan. She has cosponsored bipartisan legislation such as the Government Waste Reduction Act, which she said would help reduce the deficit while protecting seniors and middle class families.

"Sequestration just doesn't make any sense, because when people can't stay in their own homes, they tend to end up in nursing homes," the Democrat said.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services reports that Rockingham County Nutrition's funding cuts for fiscal year 2014 would result in 1,084 fewer rides to local seniors, 7,770 fewer meals delivered to the homebound and 6,540 fewer meals served at the combined Meals on Wheels locations over the coming year.

Currently, more than 1,000 Rockingham County seniors rely on the program for their daily sustenance.

"It's not just about food," Perou said. "For some of our homebound clients, we're the only ones who go and visit them; we're the only ones they talk to each day."

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