BARSTOW —A popular nutrition program that feeds hundreds of seniors throughout the High Desert is in financial jeopardy.

The Barstow Senior Nutrition program, also known as Meals on Wheels, has seen a dramatic drop in donations and may not have the funding to provide home delivered meals in June.

“While our Home Delivered Meal program is partially funded, we rely on voluntary donations from our clients and others to make up the rest of the funding needed for this program,” said Barstow Senior Nutrition Program Manager Maurice Lessard. “We’re serving 650 meals a days in Apple Valley, Barstow, Hesperia, Victorville, Adelanto, Phelan and Pinon Hills.”

Lessard said the budget for the local program, partially funded by the Administration on Aging’s Elderly Nutrition Program, comes in at around $650,000, with the High Desert program required to come up with 11 percent of the total.

“We’re feeding so many people that we’re exceeding what we can afford,” Lessard said. “So many seniors depend on us and I’d hate for us to scale back.”

Besides delivery service, the program serves meals from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays at several locations across the High Desert.

Lessard said the Barstow Senior Center was contacted by the county to provide meals for seniors after Hi-Desert Meals on Wheels closed four years ago.

A continuous voluntary donation of $45 a month can make a “huge difference” in the solvency of the Home Delivered Meals program, Lessard said.

Ellie Hollander, president of Meals on Wheels America, said in the past 45 years the organization has delivered more than 8 billion meals nationwide. She said it helps 2.4 million Americans annually, but continues to struggle to keep up with demand. 

"Meals on Wheels is already serving 23 million fewer meals than we did in 2005," she said.

Hollander worries that proposed budget cuts to federal programs that help fund Meals on Wheels will only make things worse.

But for now, Lessard is just worrying about keeping the program in the High Desert afloat through June.

Earlier this year, Lessard had to squelch rumors that the Hesperia Recreation and Park District had forced the feeding program out of the Percy Bakker Center. The group downsized its meeting space to save money on rent.

Individuals or businesses interested in helping save Meals on Wheels can mail donations to Barstow Senior Nutrition, 555 Melissa Ave., Barstow, CA 92311, with checks payable to “Barstow Senior Nutrition.”

For more information on the Barstow Senior Nutrition Program, visit www.barstowseniorcenter.com or call 760-256-9111.

Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.