Pandemic Worsens Hunger Problem Among Senior Citizens
Senior hunger has long been a problem in North Texas and throughout the country. According to Meals on Wheels, some 5.3 million senior citizens in the United States are food insecure, out of a total 9.7 million who are marginally food insecure.
After a lifetime of hard work, many seniors are forced to make the heartrending choice between groceries or medical care. As the baby boomer population continues to age, this problem is expected to grow even more dire. During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s already gotten worse—an even greater number of older adults are experiencing food insecurity, along with deeper social isolation.
Hunger and social isolation not only jeopardize the health and well-being of older adults, according to Meals on Wheels, they also place a significant strain on the country’s health-care system and economy. An estimated $51 billion economic burden is associated with malnutrition in seniors.
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas recently partnered with the West Dallas Multipurpose Center to help seniors who have trouble accessing healthy meals. Health is one of the key focus areas for United Way Dallas, along with education and income.
With support from Toyota through the DRIVE Presented by Toyota Grants program benefiting West Dallas, United Way and Toyota donated 55 boxes of 120 meals per box—a total of 6,600 meals, to the West Dallas Senior Center.
“This was part of our grassroots outreach to West Dallas,” said Daniel Bouton, director, health and wellness, United Way Dallas. “That’s the number one food dessert in our area. With the pandemic, access to healthy food has become even more scarce. Transportation options have been reduced, and that’s amplified the problem,” he said.
United Way Dallas and Toyota also have given several grants through DRIVE presented by Toyota to community members that attend the center. West Dallas Multipurpose Center serves about 60-80 seniors with meals each day. Trepasca Cox, the center’s senior group manager, said about 12,000 meals were served between March and August this year. The United Way and DRIVE Presented by Toyota grants provided coffee and breakfast items for seniors at the center, for use during conversation times.
“It’s important for them to have food. But it’s also important to get them out of the house, to stay active and participate in things,” Bouton said. “Sometimes that ‘coffee conversation’ time is the only activity to get out for during the day. They want to talk and be heard.”
During the pandemic, however, meal service has necessarily shifted from on-site to either drive-through pickup or home delivery, Cox said, with volunteers spending as much time in conversation with seniors as possible. “We greatly appreciate the donation boxes from United Way and Toyota; it made a huge impact,” Cox said.
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This article was published on: Oct 13, 2020