Taking care of seniors has always been a priority for me because of my upbringing in Farmington and the values my family instilled in me.
When I was a young man, my Grandma Gouzd lived nearby in Rachel, West Virginia. She was 85 years old and not doing well; she was lonely, not eating and seemed lethargic. As many West Virginia families do, my parents rallied around her and moved her into their house with them. After living with my parents, she thrived with the routine meals and love of her family being around her, and she lived until she was 100.
When I was governor, I rode along in one of the home-based meals delivery trucks. When we stopped at a woman's house, she offered me a cup of coffee and asked if I could visit for a little while. I had to decline because we needed to deliver other meals or they would get cold, but I wished I could've stayed and kept this woman company for a bit.
When I became governor, I thought of my Grandma Gouzd and how she thrived because of the compassion of my parents and the woman who offered me a cup of coffee and the companionship she was desperate for. These two stories are why I decided to purchase hot and cold trucks for all 55 counties in West Virginia that allowed in-home delivery of meals. For me, this wasn't a cost or burden, but an investment.
In West Virginia we invest based on your priorities, and my priority has always been to take care of seniors. In 2017 alone, 1.3 million meals were delivered to seniors in WV. Of those meals, 57% of the West Virginians lived alone and 61% of them were over 75 years old. This investment changed the lives of our senior citizens for the better and provided them with support and meals - two things they didn't have before. Expanding and securing the hot and cold food trucks in West Virginia is one of my proudest accomplishments and is near and dear to my heart.
This is why as your senator, I introduced the HOME Meals Act, which will purchase, customize and repair vehicles that provide meals to senior members of our communities. Taking care of our delivery vehicles is essential to taking care of our senior members and their needs. Many of the vehicles that are delivering the home-based meals are in need of serious repairs or replacement.
The HOME Meals Act would address this issue of aging vehicles so senior members of our communities can be properly provided with home-based meals. This bill will also make sure that states like West Virginia that have a high population of older people and individuals living in poverty will receive more funding.
The administration is cutting funding for these programs across the country, but regardless of politics I will always advocate for seniors and the programs that take care of them. Driving one of the hot and cold food trucks along our country roads two weeks ago showed me the need to repair these delivery vehicles that provide such an important service to our seniors. And that is exactly what the HOME Meals Act would do.
Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, represents West Virginia in the U.S. Senate.