Annual March for Meals raises awareness about hunger among seniors
Sheryl Jennings said the opportunity to serve lunch weekdays at the Senior Center of Elk Grove is meaningful in many ways.
The retired Sacramento County employee volunteers her time serving lunch at the Meals on Wheels program. This program serves more than two-dozen people at the center and another 18 Elk Grove residents have meals delivered on a regular basis.
“It’s a joy for me because I get to talk to people and make them happy. I’ll do anything to make someone happy,” she said prior to the 13th annual March for Meals event at the center on March 27. “It’s also a place for me to come to and enjoy my life.”
Senior Center Executive Director Patricia Beal and U.S. Rep. Dr. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) said the hot meal service is important to a senior’s physical and mental health.
“For a lot of seniors, it is their only source of a hot meal every day,” Bera said before putting on an apron and gloves to help serve meals at March for Meals.
He added that for seniors who have their meals delivered, that might be their only face-to-face contact with someone each day.
Beal said a growing issue for seniors is depression and a large factor in that is isolation.
She said an element in March for Meals is to bring awareness about Meals on Wheels programs.
“I want to see more people in here for lunch,” she said. “It’s to make people more aware and see them here. It doesn’t do any good to talk about it if nothing happens.
She added, “I’d like to run out of space here because it means we’re doing something right.”
Website MarchForMeals.com indicated the national Meals on Wheels programs collectively serve nutritious meals but also provide safety checks for nearly 2.5 million seniors each year.
“The number of seniors facing the threat of isolation and hunger is devastatingly high and quite hard to comprehend,” the website noted.
Their staff wrote that 9.3 million seniors may not know when or from where they will have their next meal. It could be a lack of mobility to cook or get to the store, or the lack of funds to purchase food.
March For Meals reported that number is expected to double to more than 18 million by the year 2050. That equals the populations in the cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston.
When sequestration in 2013 led to 8.2 percent cuts in federal spending across the board, nonprofit organizations such as the senior center saw a decrease in funding. Bera contributed the same percentage of his salary to organizations including the senior center and Elk Grove Food Bank Services.
“As a doctor, the basics are food, shelter, and clothing,” Bera said. “We have to take care of those first.”