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Carriers will take frozen meals on wheels to handful of county residents

WILLMAR -- There are some elderly or disabled residents who live so far off the beaten path in rural Kandiyohi County that volunteer drivers with the local meals-on-wheels program are unable to drive there.

As a result, some of those vulnerable adults have gone without meals for days at a time.

"They are a small niche population, but they are a needy population," said Jay Kieft, family services director, during the county board meeting Tuesday.

Those individuals, who are on the county's Medicaid waiver program, will now be receiving two weeks worth of frozen meals delivered from Iowa to their doorsteps via FedEx or UPS.

The Commissioners agreed Tuesday to contract for the service with Mom's Meals, based in Nevada, Iowa.

The cost per meal is $6.16.

That's slightly higher than the $5.69 a meal delivered by Willmar's West Central Industries and Lutheran Social Services programs.

Volunteer drivers deliver those hot meals daily.

The local programs also provide a week's worth of frozen meals that can be delivered by a family member or friend.

Tamaraa Goldenstein, family services supervisor, said there are 8-10 residents who live in such remote corners of the county that volunteers won't deliver hot meals daily, and they don't have a friend or family member to deliver frozen meals.

"Those are the situations we're trying to remedy," said Goldenstein.

Commissioners questioned if all options had been explored for providing the meals through the local programs.

Although he voted for it, Commissioner Richard Larson said he would have a "tough time" supporting the measure. Commissioner Richard Falk said shipping in meals from Iowa defeats school and community efforts to use locally-grown produce.

The Commissioners reviewed a break-down of the 2008 family services expenses and revenues.

Medical assistance is the biggest piece of the expense pie, making up 55.1 percent of the $80 million in "flow through" money that comes to the county from state and federal resources.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said medical expenses have grown by about 75 percent in Kandiyohi County in the last 15 years, which he said shows the "huge, huge problem" the county is facing in growing costs for health care.

"The costs are just escalating and we need to do something to take care of it," said Larson.

Federal government provides 48.7 percent of all revenue for the county's family services program and the state provides 44.5 percent. The county's share is 6.8 percent, which is slightly lower than the state average of 7 percent.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said if the federal and state governments want to reduce welfare costs they should start by simplifying the programs

Welfare costs are "driven by the bureaucracy that's in place to catch a small percentage, of less than one percent, who participates in welfare fraud."

He claimed the government's efforts to catch welfare fraud costs hundreds of dollars more than the benefits received.

Kieft said his constant message to legislators is "simplify."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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