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.
I wanted to learn more, to get to know these people, so I visited the Meals On Wheels headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, and went to work. I started in food prep. The meal that day was a delicious turkey dinner and we had to make 300 lbs of dressing. That meant 35 lbs of celery and 35 lbs of onions, and that was just the start. Boy, did they put my chopping skills to the test!
While I was there I had the opportunity to meet the president and CEO of MOWAA, Enid Borden. If you believe that there are angels walking around on earth, then I just met one. Enid told me that 1 in 9 seniors in this country are going hungry. I was shocked. Like most people, I had no idea that a problem that huge existed right in our own communities, right under our noses. Enid called the seniors in this country “the hidden hungry” because they’re behind closed doors. But they’re our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents—they’re us. The volunteers at Meals On Wheels do a tremendous job, and they do it joyfully and with unstoppable energy. But, I realized, they can’t do it alone.
I next went with Ray to deliver the meals. Every person we met had a story, and one of the great things about Meals On Wheels is that it allows a lot of seniors to stay in their homes, surrounded by the comforts and memories of loved ones. Our last visit was to a terrific lady named Frances who, at 95, was still going strong. When I put her meal in the kitchen I could distinctly smell gas. Ray and I checked the stove and saw that it had been left on, so we quickly remedied the situation and opened up some windows to get the air moving. We called headquarters to alert them of the situation. They noted it in her file and asked us to stay for 5 or 10 minutes to make sure Frances was okay. This really made me realize how vitally important Meals On Wheels is—the volunteer might be the only people these seniors see on a daily basis, so besides nourishing food they are also a vital lifeline. Ray—like all the drivers—has a checklist to monitor not only the physical safety of the clients, but also the emotional and mental wellbeing. They check to make sure the environment is in order, and that the client is clean, alert, and happy. I’m so proud to have been a part of this extraordinary organization.
It’s simple. All you have to do is remember 6 million. 6 million seniors tonight—right now, and every night—are going hungry. That’s just wrong. There’s enough to go around, we all need to work hard to make sure it gets around. Meals On Wheels is making a difference; to find how you can help, contact www.mowaa.org.