Not a day goes by that someone doesn't contact Washington-Morgan Community Action, inquiring about its Meals on Wheels program for homebound seniors.
"We have a waiting list of over 150 people," said Carrie McNamee, senior and community services program director at Community Action. "As far as senior hunger, I think it's probably something people don't see or think of if you are not faced with it."
Statistics show that senior hunger is a significant problem and it's only expected to get worse. According to the Comfort Keepers website, www.comfortkeepers.com, as many as one in three seniors in the care of others may be under- or malnourished.
Comfort Keepers provides in-home care to seniors and other clients, assisting them with daily living activities. One of its 600 franchised offices is located in Marietta.
Feeding America's "Hunger in America 2010" study reveals that 7.5 percent of households with seniors - 2.2 million households - are food insecure.
The Meals on Wheels Association of America predicts that in 2025, an estimated 9.5 million senior Americans will experience some form of food insecurity, about 75 percent higher than the number in 2005.
Senior hunger in America
According to the "Hunger in America 2010" study released by Feeding America, 7.5 percent of households with senior citizens (2.2 million households) are food insecure.
Seniors are more likely to be at risk of hunger if they're living at or below the poverty line, divorced, separated or living with a grandchild or if they're African-American or Hispanic.
Health consequences of senior hunger include lower intakes of energy and major vitamins and being limited in activities of daily living.
In 2025, an estimated 9.5 million senior Americans will experience some form of food insecurity, about 75 percent higher than the number in 2005.
Source: Times' research.
Joanie Yeomans, an owner of the Comfort Keepers of the Mid-Ohio Valley office in Marietta, said there are a variety of reasons why so many seniors are at risk.
"It can be everything from the fact that it's depressing to eat alone ... to if you're having trouble getting around, standing and maneuvering around the kitchen to cook is an even bigger challenge," she said.
Yeomans said many medications can make food taste bad and can also upset a person's stomach, resulting in a loss of appetite. A lack of transportation and financial issues can also lead to senior hunger, she said.
"They're having to choose between medicines and food," she said.
Yeomans noted that senior hunger is a serious problem because it can lead to many health problems.
"It can be a huge contributing factor to a wide variety of diseases - everything from cancer to diabetes," she said.
Yeomans said people who have seniors in their lives should check in on them at meal time to see exactly what they're eating. It's not good enough, she said, to ask a senior if she or he has eaten, because it's easy for them to answer "yes." Instead, specific questions about what the person ate should be asked.SENIOR
FROM PAGE A1munity Action have programs in place to help combat the issue of senior hunger.
Comfort Keepers currently has a campaign under way, the STOP Senior Hunger food drive, which aims to collect food for local seniors.
Through the end of the month, food will be collected at area Foodland stores, the Warren's IGA in Marietta, the Newport IGA and the Comfort Keepers office, 148C Gross St., Marietta.
"It's been great," Yeomans said. "We've probably collected around 750 pounds of food so far."
The food will be distributed to area food pantries and FaithLink, a Faith in Action program in Parkersburg which aims to enable people to live as independently as possible by linking those with special health care needs to volunteers.
Washington-Morgan Community Action's Senior Nutrition Program provides senior citizens with hot, nutritious meals. Congregate and home-delivered meals are available through the program.
"Both programs are there to fill the need or stop the issue of senior hunger," McNamee said. "There are no income guidelines, and we don't charge for the meals."
McNamee noted that the agency asks for a $3 donation for each meal, but most recipients are only able to give 50 cents.
There are congregate meal sites in Marietta, New Matamoras, Lower Salem, Beverly, McConnelsville, Layman and Belpre. Meals are offered at noon Monday through Friday.
Congregate meals are open to anyone 60 years of age and older and their spouse, regardless of age. Anyone with disabilities that resides at home with and accompanies a person 60 and older is also eligible.
Community Action's Meals on Wheels program is open to those 60 years or older who are homebound by reason of illness, incapacitating disability or are otherwise isolated. Meals are delivered throughout most of Washington and Morgan Counties.
McNamee said a total of 350 meals a day are distributed in Washington County through the congregate meals and Meals on Wheels programs.
Contact Community Action at 373-3745 for more information on the services.