Meal sites step up to accommodate more seniors
Trends reported in the news about the increasing numbers of people living below the poverty level are startling and certainly representative of the seniors that the Meals on Wheels People serve in Clark, Multnomah and Washington Counties.
The 5,000 individuals supported each day by the non-profit’s meal program are many times referred to as the “hidden hungry”. These seniors are living on minimal income and lack community access and visibility in the very neighborhoods where they live.
One of our Meals on Wheels clients, Phyllis, lives in one room in the basement of an apartment on Northwest 23rd Avenue. A bustling neighborhood full of high-end shops and top-notch restaurants surround her. At times we suggest that Phyllis open her shades and take advantage of the beautiful day but she is not interested. Her world is inside her room. The only company she receives is our volunteer driver and an occasional case manager. Phyllis continues to exist, hidden from the community.
In 2009, 6.8 percent of the 17,000 seniors served by Meals on Wheels reported that they lived below the poverty level. By 2012, 18.8 percent reported to be living below the poverty level, which is higher than the national average.
Many of the seniors are between the ages of 60 and 69. They are experiencing a reduction in income and are looking to stretch their budget by eating the main meal of the day from the Meals on Wheels People. Throughout the metropolitan area, the number of seniors served by the group increased by 15 percent in the past year.
When assessing living expenses, frequently the food budget is the first to be reduced. As adequate nutrition is compromised, risk of poor health in increased.
As seniors face the challenge of going hungry, the Meals on Wheels People picks up the challenge, reaching out, informing the public and making the connections necessary to maintain a quality of life that we all value.
This fall as we prepare to enjoy the season of harvest and plenty, plan to share your harvest by volunteering and donating to the Meals on Wheels People.