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Meals on Wheels is working to end hunger among seniors in the U.S.

This World Food Day, Meals on Wheels puts the spotlight on an often forgotten part of the population when it comes to hunger: the elderly. Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America writes about how we can support vulnerable families to access healthy food.
15 Oct 2021 – 10:46 AM EDT
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Rickey and Melvona have lived full and rich lives for many years. They raised a daughter together and now help her to raise their three precious grandchildren. Their family brings them endless fulfillment, which is a welcome and joyful counterbalance to the stress they experience in their ongoing struggle to manage the costs associated with their own basic needs. You see, Ricky is a veteran who suffered injuries that forced him to stop working long ago, and although Melvona likes to cook, they can barely afford to keep food on their own table. Sadly, that is the way for so many seniors living on fixed incomes, nationwide.

On this 76 th annual World Food Day celebration, I am honored to provide a voice for a hidden, often forgotten about population in America that is deserving of so much more. The population to which I am referring is our nation’s homebound seniors – those who have spent their lives supporting their communities and their families, and who now need us to help support them.

There are a host of reasons that millions of our senior neighbors can no longer provide themselves with the nutritious meals they need to maintain a strong foundation for a healthful life. For some, they can no longer safely drive their cars to the grocery store; for others, illness and disease have eroded their ability to prepare their own meals; and, for others, the fortune of a long life has outpaced their life’s savings, making access to consistent, healthy meals simply out of reach. For most of them, no matter the reason, family has long since moved far away, leaving our most vulnerable seniors to fend for themselves.

That’s why there is Meals on Wheels, and that’s why we celebrate this vital lifeline on World Food Day, in particular, as part of the solution to the challenges our nation faces in ensuring that all seniors in need have the opportunity to live more nourished lives with independence and dignity in the comfort of their own homes and communities. And with Meals on Wheels, it’s more than just the meal that enables them to thrive; it’s also about the friendly visit and safety check—the “watchful eye” and connection to other needed services—that gives our older neighbors confidence and peace of mind.

Unfortunately, though, seniors are rarely the first group that comes to mind when we think of hunger. And yet, the population that Meals on Wheels serves is among the most vulnerable to hunger, malnutrition and social isolation. Two-thirds are 75 years or older; one-third are people of color; and, more than half of them live alone. Fifty percent of Meals on Wheels clients self-report fair or poor health, and all of them struggle in some way to eat regular, healthy meals. In all, nearly 10 million seniors in America are threatened by hunger (that’s about one in six older adults), and the resources available to support them fall well short of the demand. Even before COVID-19 hit and forced millions more seniors to shelter in their homes for safety, we were woefully behind in our efforts to keep up with the escalating need.

And, the case is much worse for minority populations in the U.S. The Black and Hispanic senior populations are twice as likely to be threatened by hunger than White seniors, and more likely to need help with their personal care.

Your support is needed now more than ever to ensure that our senior neighbors are not left behind, alone and hungry. Please join us in this fight. Find out how you can get involved today by visiting mealsonwheelsamerica.org/getinvolved.

Ellie Hollander is the President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, a nonprofit organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger.


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