More Seniors Go Hungry, Skip Meals
Florida ranks among the Top 10 states where the threat of senior hunger is highest. Just how bad is it?
Senior hunger is a silent epidemic in Florida and across the nation. It is an alarming epidemic that many Americans feel uncomfortable about or facing.
Between 2001 and 2010, there was an 80 percent increase in the number of seniors experiencing hunger in America, according to the Meals on Wheels Research Foundation (MOWRF).
That means 8.3 million seniors face the threat of hunger. By "threat" this means they have expressed anxiety about not having enough food, have had occasions when they did not have enough food, or sometimes even skipped meals because of a lack of money for food.
The Sunshine State has among the highest rates.
In a recently released report by MOWRF, known as its "Senior Hunger Report Card," Florida was among the top 10 states in the nation for the highest rates of seniors facing the threat of hunger.
One local non-profit agency fighting th epidemic a meal at a time is Pinellas County's Neighborly Care Network, which has been involved in senior hunger prevention for decades.
Neighborly was successful for many years in meeting the hunger needs of indigent mature adults in the community by delivering nutritious meals to their homes through its Meals on Wheels Program.
But that is no longer possible.
Sandi Narron, speaking for the agency, points to the lack of funding to meet the growing demand of seniors in hunger in the community.
Just how bad is it?
Narron says, "Funding for our vital programs been stagnant for the past eight years. Now, in the past two years, our funding has been cut and continues to decline. Unfortunately, while funding has declined the need for services has risen. Presently, we are struggling as our wait list for Meals on Wheels has reached over 600 people."
According to Narron, currently in South Pinellas three distinct senior centers serve as distribution centers for Neighborly's Meals on Wheels Program. They include 16 routes out of the Sunshine Center, along with 12 routes from Enoch Davis Center in St. Petersburg, plus another 14 from the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center. To be eligible for the Meals on Wheels Program the basic guidelines are that someone must be 60 years of age, homebound and unable to get out to buy groceries or be physically unable to prepare regular meals. Priority is given then to those who are alone and have no reliable support to help them in their daily lives. Sadly, given the huge waiting list, it is apparent there are a whole lot of seniors in the community who fall into this category.
Ruth E. Hargary, site coordinator for Neighborly's Meals on Wheels Program at the Sunshine Center, echoed Narron's take on why the agency cannot begin these days to keep up with the demand. "It's all about funding," she says, in all levels of our government. "We try to add one or two people a week, but that doesn't even begin to meet the need."
With tight budgets these days for all government bodies on a local, state or federal level, one answer to this epidemic is logically for Neighborly to receive more donations from local companies, individuals and various organizations to help this cause. And as Sandi Narron points out, an individual or group doesn't have to contribute a large amount of money to make a difference.
As an example, an organization known as Better Living For Seniors (BLS) recently held an event in which their PR committee who coordinated the event decided to allocate half of the money raised from their function to Neighborly's "Meals on Wheels" Program. The total amount contributed was $224. To some that might not seem like much, but according to Narron, a donation of just $25 is enough to cover the cost of a homebound senior's meals for a week. Thus, this BLS contribution will mean some lucky older person on the waiting list in need of these meals will be able to receive them for at least two months.
"When we were deciding on a deserving charity to receive part of the proceeds from the Consortium we were responsible for coordinating for the BLS membership, we pretty quickly decided on Neighborly Care Network's Meals on Wheels. With the kind of financial crisis they are going through with that program every dollar helps," said Beth Harvard, co-chair of the BLS event.
Organizations whom may be interested in developing a fundraising program for the "Meals on Wheels" Program should contact Sandi Narron at (727) 573-9444, ext. 4210. Individuals who wish to contribute can also contact her at this number if they have any questions about how to donate or visit: http://www.neighborly.org for how-to donation instructions.