On Good Food, Good Deeds, some of America’s best-loved celebrities have generously volunteered their time and experienced first-hand the work that Meals On Wheels does. The marvellous Bob Eubanks recently spent some time down at a Meals On Wheels program here in Los Angeles—one that is near and dear to my heart, St. Vincent’s. I also had the opportunity of working there with Sister Alice, a woman whose energy is only equalled by her compassion. She created the program years ago, and both Bob and I were astonished at how smoothly an organization this complex can run! As Sister Alice told Bob, she is guided by the words of St. Vincent himself: ask the poor what they want, don’t give the poor what you want. So at St. Vincent’s, it isn’t just thousands and thousands of meals everyday, it’s thousands and thousands of personalized meals everyday. Sister Alice and her incredible team ensure that not only dietary restrictions are adhered to, but also religious and personal preferences as well. It is food that is truly made with love, and that is truly awe-inspiring.
LA is a fantastic place to live—sunshine, glamour, a land of plenty. But right in our midst, overlooked, are thousands of people who aren’t walking the red carpet or driving around in fancy cars: they’re going hungry. And it’s not just in my city, but every city and town in America. They are our seniors, and there is an epidemic of hunger and malnutrition. I wanted to do my part in bringing this terrible tragedy to light, so I went down to St. Vincent’s Meals on Wheels to volunteer.
One of the great things about making Good Food, Good Deeds is seeing the generous participation of our wonderful celebrities. They have given so much, volunteering their time, getting down to the nitty gritty in the kitchen, and making the lives of unsuspecting seniors brighter with a surprise visit from a famous person! It’s been thrilling to experience the journeys with them as they come to realize the full extent and impact of this terrific organization; it’s a real sense of wonder and awe that I’m sure is shared by the viewers at home.
Recently I had the opportunity to work on the show Good Foods, Goods Deeds, and it was one of the most remarkable and heartening experiences I’ve ever had. Like a lot of people, I’d heard of Meals On Wheels, but what I didn’t appreciate was the breadth of the organization. I had the opportunity to experience it firsthand at the Oceola Council for Aging in Kissimmee, Florida.
Who knew comedian Ricky Gervais could be serious? Better yet, who knew we would share anything in common? But his blog post about getting older and life being too short struck a familiar chord and got me thinking, “who knew?”
At Good Food, Good Deeds our goal is to provide menus that are simple, quick, and delicious. But though they’re easy, they don’t stint on nutrition! As Linda Gray saw when she went to lending a helping hand to the Meals On Wheels in Richmond, Virginia, a lot of care goes into the food preparation. At Meals On Wheels, nutrition is priority number one. That’s important—according to Teresa A. Marshall, M.D. at the University of Iowa, up to 80 percent of seniors may be deficient in four or more nutrients. This is due not only to increased difficulties with making balanced meals, but also because our bodies change as we age: we absorb nutrients less efficiently, and our sense of taste becomes diminished, meaning healthy foods may become less appealing to eat.
Good Food Good Deeds features some of our best-loved celebrities generously giving their time and—most importantly—giving freely of their hearts as they volunteer for the Meals On Wheels Association of America. Linda Gray recently helped out in Richmond, Virginia and experienced the massive scope of the organization personally. “They work hard to give these folks the kind of food they like, the kind they’re used to,” she says, “food that’s suited to them.” Being in the south, Linda helped whip up a whopping, delicious heaping of turkey, dressing, and scrumptious sweet potato pie: comfort food, southern style!
People going to bed hungry? In America? How could that be; aren’t we the richest country in the world? But it is true; six million of our seniors face hunger and malnutrition on a daily basis. Luckily the fabulous people at the Meals On Wheels Association of America work hard to feed the most vulnerable members of society, delivering more than a million meals a day.
In 2008, the Meals On Wheels Association of America released the results of a groundbreaking research report entitled “The Causes, Consequences and Future of Senior Hunger in America” that our Foundation had commissioned. The findings of the co-principal investigators, Dr. James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Dr. Craig Gundersen then of the University of Iowa, were shocking and unacceptable. In 2001, the research showed, five million seniors in the United States, or one in nine, were facing the threat of hunger. The next year, we asked the same researchers to examine several more years of data and update the report. By 2007, the number of seniors facing the threat of hunger was six million. Any reader who can do the math knows that is a 20 percent increase in just six years. But without context, the average reader might not be able to grasp the magnitude of the number. Let me give some context. There are 33 states in this country that each have total state populations of less than 6 million.
The simplest way to make produce the center of attention at meals is to serve up an entree salad for lunch or dinner. Salads are super easy to make, won’t weigh you down, and, with the right ingredients, you eat as much as you like—you can never eat too many vegetables