Launch Campaign For $4.5 M To Boost Seniors' Meals
Seniors from all over Queens descended on the Kew Gardens Community Center last Friday for a "Pizza and Soda" campaign, an effort to convince the borough's councilmembers and the Bloomberg mayoral administration to allocate $4.5 million to cover food cost increases that would help to ensure that highquality, nutritious food is served to seniors.
Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy for the citywide Council of Senior Centers & Services, explained that the campaign came about because of the fact that since 1999, reimbursement by the city for congregate onsite meals at senior centers and for home-delivered meals has remained the same-$1.85 per meal.
Just to meet inflation, Sackman says, 35 cents more per meal is needed to put a proper, nutritious meal on the table. That comes to $4.5 million citywide, and she adds, "Seniors are sending out a strong message to the City Council and the Bloomberg administration that, 'You can't even get a slice of pizza and a soda for $1.85'."
Sackman's phrase is the reason the effort was dubbed the Pizza and Soda campaign.
Councilmember David Weprin, council Finance Committee chairman, agrees completely.
Weprin (D-Hollis) declared, "A $1.85 won't get you on the subway, won't buy you a gallon of milk or definitely a gallon of gasoline. Our senior citizens worked hard to secure a bright future for us. We should at least be able to buy them a decent meal."
Borough President Helen Marshall is also behind the campaign. She stated, "Our senior centers do a terrific job providing congregate and home-delivered meals to Queens seniors, but they need our additional support to keep pace with inflation."
NURSING HOME FUNDING SAVED: One of the recent budget vetoes by Governor George Pataki which was overriden by the state legislature and made a part of the
2007 state budget was a $72 million allocation for aid to nursing homes in Queens. The override also, in effect, provided $940 million statewide to nursing homes.
State Senator Frank Padavan (R-C, Bellerose), who was a strong advocate for the veto action, said if Pataki's veto had not been challenged, hundreds of nursing homes would have suffered "a blow that would be catastrophic." Many would have been forced to close, he added.
"In Queens alone," Padavan noted, "almost 60 facilities would have been affected by the reductions in funding due to Gov. Pataki's vetoes."
QUEENS OFFICIALS SEEK MORE CABS FOR SENIORS: Queens lawmakers spoke out last week in support of a bill to greatly expand the number of wheelchair-accessible taxicabs in order to provide greater service for seniors and the disabled. The bill also calls for more pollution-fighting alternative fuel vehicles that give off fewer emissions.
City Council Transportation Committee Chairman John Liu (D-Flushing) said, "Cutting down on taxicab pollution and increasing access for people who rely on wheelchairs is not only the right thing to do, but ultimately the more cost-effective stop."
Councilmember James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), Environmental Protection Committee chair, stated: "Putting more clean air taxis on the street will take a big bite out of the Big Apple's air pollution problems."
Liu also called for 154 more wheelchair accessible cabs and an equal number of alternative fuel vehicles.
Councilmember Joseph Addabbo (D-Ozone Park) declared: "Seniors and those New Yorkers who use wheelchairs would then have more transportation options."
Another supporter of the bill was Terrence Moakley, executive director of the United Spinal Association in Jackson Heights.
'OLDER AMERICANS MONTH' OBSERVED: President John F. Kennedy established Older Americans Month in 1963 when only 7 million Americans had reached their 65th birthday, according to state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing).
"Today," Stavisky declared, "there are 37 million at that milestone and by the year 2025, it's estimated that 25 percent of our nation will be over the age of 60."
For that reason, she added, seniors now and in the coming years must work with their doctors to stay healthy because that may be as important as getting the right treatment when they're ill.
Stavisky's observations tie in with the 2006 theme for the monthly observance, which is "choices for independence."
"The theme recognizes that aging well reflects a commitment to making healthy lifestyle choices, emphasizing good nutrition, regular physical activity and active participation in ones health care," Stavisky said.
"Research has shown that physical changes once thought to be an inevitable part of aging, such as muscle weakness or memory loss, can result from a lifetime of poor health habits."