State budget cuts affect meal program for seniors

Arkansas has a higher percentage of food insecurity among seniors than any other state in the nation, and recent legislation may put more older people at risk for hunger.

The 90th General Assembly’s $1 million budget cut for the State Senior Center Services means there will be less funding for food and other programs for older people served by the Senior Centers in our state,” said Luke Mattingly, President and CEO of CareLink, the Area Agency on Aging serving six central Arkansas counties.

During the same session the state’s budget increased by $133 million with spending increases for public schools, prisons, career education, the Department of Human Services and cuts in the capital gains tax. Unfortunately, during revenue stabilization this came partially at the expense of funding for State Senior Center Services.

Senior centers were already at a critical point with funding and had expressed the need to the Division of Aging and Adult Services for an increase of $1 million in funding during the budget process. These funds are used by senior centers statewide to provide meals, transportation, wellness or fitness programs, and socialization.

“The result of the funding cut is an even wider gap in our ability to ensure older people do not go hungry and have a resource for socialization and wellness/fitness activities,” said Mattingly. “Every senior center will have to evaluate service reductions to absorb these cuts.”

Last year, more than 18,000 people in Faulkner, Lonoke, Monroe, Prairie, Pulaski and Saline counties were CareLinked with information and resources to help them stay active and in their own homes, avoiding more costly care. Older people and their caregivers can get the information and assistance they need from CareLink at 501.372.5300, toll-free 800.482.6359 or by visiting