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The hidden hunger

Meals on Wheels, RLTV partner to deliver an important message about senior hunger

Created date

September 20th, 2011

Millions of older Americans face a serious threat one that does not discriminate among gender, race, or even socioeconomic status. Nearly six million people or 11.4% of the entire population over the age of 60 faces some degree of food insecurity. Many older people can t get to a store to buy food. Others can t afford groceries. Regardless of the cause, there s one organization that is doing everything it possibly can to end the scourge of senior hunger. Since 1976, the Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) has offered nutritious meals and a friendly hello to millions of people in need. Every day, well over one million meals are served or delivered by an army of volunteers that by some estimates is 1.7 million strong.

People who care

Our typical volunteer is atypical, says MOWAA President and CEO Enid Borden. The vast majority of our volunteers are seniors simply because of the time one needs to be available to do this because our deliveries are in the middle of the day. But we have volunteers of all shapes and sizes. Younger moms with kids who bring along their children because they want to teach them how to be good citizens. We have middle-aged volunteers, students really, anyone who cares about ending hunger in America is our volunteer. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization, and the nation s ongoing economic downturn is having an impact. When the gas crisis hit, our programs took it on the chin almost immediately because the people who deliver our meals are volunteers and gas becomes really critical to them. Some have to make a decision. Do I volunteer, do I deliver meals, or do I eat? And so many of the people who were our volunteers at one point are now on our program. We see the impact of any economic downturn immediately.

Good Food, Good Deeds

As Borden is quick to point out, senior hunger is a silent epidemic. We call it the hidden hunger because many people who live in high rises in the city or in more remote rural areas are hidden behind closed doors and people don t see them. But they are hungry and in need and that s who our programs are for. To call attention to senior hunger, MOWAA has teamed up with RLTV cable network to produce a TV program called Good Food, Good Deeds hosted by America s favorite TV mom, Florence Henderson, and nutrition expert Joy Bauer of the Today Show. This is an amazing show for us and it couldn t come at a better time, says Borden. One of the issues we find ourselves in the middle of is the fact that people don t even know senior hunger exists. To put on this kind of programming for an audience we hope will watch and work with us, become volunteers and, frankly, become better citizens in their own communities is great.

Delivering food, hope, friendship

The show is one part cooking lesson with Bauer and Henderson demonstrating how to make simple, delicious, and nutritious meals. We are very careful about the food we deliver. The food on the show is not necessarily the same food we deliver, but the consideration for nutritional quality of the meal is very much in that vein, says Borden. The other part of the program is more like a reality show, following celebrities like Henderson as they make deliveries with Meals on Wheels volunteers. In one early episode, Henderson and a volunteer attempt to deliver a meal to someone who doesn t answer the doorbell, vividly illustrating the vital role Meals on Wheels volunteers play in the lives of the men and women they deliver to. When a volunteer knocks on that door, they deliver a couple of things, says Borden. Number one, they deliver a meal which is the most important thing. They are also delivering hope. They are saying to the person on the other side of that door, I m here for you. Is there anything that you need? Also, oftentimes when they knock on that door and don t get a response, they realize that something happened. They are a safety net too. They may be the only person that senior sees all day. They deliver kindness and friendship and compassion. Because folks who are all alone and living with nothing need to be reminded that it s going to get better. Good Food, Good Deeds premieres on RLTV Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. Eastern. Check local listings or visit For more information about Meals on Wheels, go to