Participants Are Satisfied With Mandatory Meal Programs in HUD Projects

RCED-85-67: Published: Mar 5, 1985. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined mandatory meal programs in Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing projects which serve the elderly and the handicapped to determine: (1) how many projects provide meal services; (2) how many require mandatory participation; (3) whether the HUD mandatory meal program has worked well; (4) whether complaints can best be resolved through legislation or regulation; and (5) whether projects could economically run a voluntary meal program and, if so, what the minimum size would be.

GAO found that 512 of the 930 projects surveyed had meal services, but only 98 required resident participation as a condition of occupancy. GAO also found that managers of projects that have mandatory meal programs believe that mandatory participation: (1) ensures that their elderly residents receive nutritional benefits and have an opportunity to socialize; (2) alerts management to possible problems; and (3) was the only cost-effective way to operate a program that relies almost entirely on revenue from meal purchases. GAO found that: (1) projects that operate voluntary meal programs generally experience more than a 10-percent variation in participation, and mandatory meal program managers generally believe that their budgets could not cover the loss that would result from such inconsistent participation; and (2) although about 70 percent of the mandatory meal program participants reported that they were satisfied with their program. However, some participants were dissatisfied with certain aspects of the program, such as the cost or the taste of the meals, and others preferred to eat alone. In addition, GAO found that, since most of the problems which it identified were matters of residents' personal preferences, legislative or regulatory action was warranted.

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