By Craig Day, The News On 6

CHOUTEAU, OK -- The state's budget shortfall is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of people in many smaller Oklahoma communities.

The state cut millions of dollars in funding for senior nutrition programs in the state.

However, as The News On 6 found out Monday, people in Chouteau have found a solution, one that has rallied the community around its senior citizens.

Each weekday at the Chouteau senior citizens center, seniors go there for food and friendly conversation, but when state funding was cut for the nutrition program, it was tough to swallow.

"There at first, we didn't know what we were going to do," said Ted Walsh, senior citizen.

With the state budget shortfall, DHS cut more than $7 million for senior nutrition programs across the state.

Chouteau residents worry that without the meals, many wouldn't get the nutrition they need.

"A lot of them are widowers and widows and I know they are not going to sit at home and cook themselves a good hardy meal like they get here," Chouteau Mayor Jerry Floyd said.

"It just gives a lot of people lunch, that wouldn't have lunch," Walsh said.

In the absence of state funding, area businesses, churches and individuals offered to help.

The Main Street Diner volunteered to cook meals for the program, and before long, other restaurants stepped in -- all for free.

"Nettie Anne furnishes bakery products everyday, Dutch Pantry pies. Del Rio, they cook one day a week and they beg everyday to do more," said Roger Larremore, Main Street Diner.

Seniors pay $2 of the $3 it costs for the meals, with donations now making up the difference.

"The people of this community have come together real well, real well," said Mayor Floyd.

It's hoped lawmakers address funding for nutrition programs in the upcoming session, but for now, Chouteau's solution is working.

They have saved the weekday meals, while bringing the community together.

"Chouteau people take care of Chouteau people, good people here. Good people in this little town," said Roger Larremore.

A benefit fundraiser is set for this Friday, January 22nd to raise money for the senior nutrition program in Chouteau. There will be live country and gospel music at the senior citizens center from 7 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., where donations will be accepted.