March is when we begin to think about spring flowers, green beer and corned beef and, maybe this year, spring skiing (keeping my fingers crossed!). But for those of us who work in human services, March is also National Nutrition Month, a time when we need to take a hard look at the issue of hunger. Why? Because hunger-related statistics continue to be unsettling: hungry seniors are more likely to develop adverse health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems.
According to Meals on Wheels America, the oldest and largest national organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based senior nutrition programs across the country, in California 1,069,604 seniors are threatened by hunger. In Placer County alone, 30% of adults over the age of 60 – that works out to almost 28,000 people – do not know with certainty where their next meal will come from. In the industry, this is known as food insecurity. Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all of the time. Food insecurity may simply reflect a need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or prescription medication, and purchasing nutritionally adequate food – a decision no one should have to make.
On March 22, 1972, President Nixon signed into law a measure that amended the Older Americans Act of 1965 and established a national nutrition program for seniors. Forty-five years later, senior nutrition programs across the country are delivering nutritious meals to seniors at risk of hunger and isolation in virtually every community across the country.
Now, every March, Meals on Wheels America organizes March for Meals, a month-long campaign to raise awareness of senior hunger and the programs that exist to end it. Locally, this campaign gives nonprofits such as Seniors First an opportunity to promote its varied senior nutrition programs such as MyMeals, nutritious, hot meals delivered to homebound seniors, and Senior Cafes, neighborhood sites where eligible seniors can go for a nutritious noontime meal. This annual campaign is also intended to help recruit new volunteers from our community and to increase fundraising from local businesses and supporters. For more information, visit www.marchformeals.com.
We are especially grateful to some local officials who will use their leadership in the name of hunger by acting as Community Champions during March for Meals, volunteering and serving meals in our Senior Cafes. For example, in Auburn, Jim Holmes, Placer County supervisor, District 3, will donate his time at Valley Oaks Apartments, an independent living community that houses a Senior Café that serves hundreds of clients each month.
We welcome any interested in volunteering for the well-being of our local seniors to contact us for ways to become involved. Seniors First is always in need of trustworthy volunteers to serve as drivers, friendly visitors and in other roles. Please contact Janessa Jordan at (530)889-9500 x213.