The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


March 9, 2014

Hidden hunger

Last Friday marked the 12th annual March for Meals, the campaign by the Meals on Wheels Association of America to celebrate its food deliveries to the less fortunate.

March for Meals is a national campaign held every March that seeks to increase public awareness of hunger, recruit new volunteers and raise money for the charitable organization.

Many seniors living on fixed incomes welcome the home-cooked meals delivered to their homes, which provide them a crucial bridge as they struggle to stay within their monthly budgets.

Brenda Linkous of Beckley told The Register-Herald that she and husband Roger depend on Meals on Wheels, operated locally by the Raleigh County Commission on Aging.

“By the time we pay our bills, the money’s about gone,” Linkous said.

Without the six meals delivered each week, she said, she and her husband would go hungry.

For seniors with limited financial resources, hunger can be a hidden issue. Many are quietly on their own, and most don’t make a fuss about their problems.

West Virginia is not among the top states with hunger issues for seniors. In fact, it can modestly claim to rank near the middle of the pack nationally when it comes to lower hunger risk, as defined by Meals on Wheels.

The state ranks 33rd-best nationally. The worst states for hunger risk for seniors are Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico.

Poverty is, of course, a factor in senior hunger. But it is not the determining factor, according to studies.

Many seniors have the resources to buy adequate food, but issues such as lack of personal mobility and a lack of transportation often prevent seniors from following a healthy diet.

The Linkous family receives six Meals on Wheels meals each week. As gas prices have soared over the past few years, Meals on Wheels doesn’t deliver as often as it used to. But their creative solution was to visit less, and leave more food.

In this case, they leave a two-day supply of meals per visit.

The Linkous family’s home health care provider, Vicky Hart of Mountain State Home Health, said she picks up the “home-cooked meals” that are delivered to Manor House for the couple and is impressed by the nutritional quality of the food.

“It’s spot-on,” she said. “They have meat products, vegetable products, diabetic or nondiabetic dessert.

“It’s very nutritious,” she added. “It’s not just store-bought pizza pockets. It’s actual food.”

Hart said that many Meals clients would be forced to go without food if not for the program.

According to Raleigh Commission on Aging Director of Social Services Terri Tilley, the Meals program served 49,400 meals last fiscal year — in addition to the 44,000 meals served to seniors at six other sites in the county.

Funded by the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, United Way of Southern West Virginia and community donations, meals are prepared at the Raleigh Commission on Aging on South Kanawha Street and delivered to county citizens ages 60 and over who qualify for the program.

This kind of commitment from the state, United Way of Southern West Virginia and other community volunteers helps our seniors in so many ways.

Our spirit of neighborliness, compassion and the desire to give to those less fortunate are truly the kinds of things that make West Virginia such a special place.

Sometimes we show that two meals at a time.

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