By Michelle Rivard, Ecumen E-Learning Designer & Trainer
Ecumen employees heard the troubling statistic that “food insecurity” affects approximately one out of every ten Minnesotans — including a large number of seniors. The USDA defines food insecurity as “lacking the money or resources necessary to have consistent and dependable access to enough food for all family members.”
Lauren Edstrom from Metro Meals on Wheels and Abbie Tish from Hunger Solutions conducted a November 1, 2017, learning event sponsored by Ecumen’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, a group of employees chartered to advance Ecumen’s diversity and inclusion goals. [You can view the full presentation by clicking here or on the video above.]
The Ecumen Home Office has partnered with Meals on Wheels for over a year. In that time, Ecumen employees have donated 64 volunteer hours by delivering hot food to people who otherwise may be unable to access nutritious meals. The average age of a Meals on Wheels client is 82.
“Hunger alienates people from their peers,” said Edstrom. “Many seniors are embarrassed to get food delivered, and they are afraid to ask for help.”
Tish agreed and provided common scenarios that she hears when answering phones at the Minnesota Food Helpline. “A senior may need to choose between paying for her medicine and buying healthy food,” she said.
Seniors with inadequate nutrition are 60 per cent more likely to experience depression, 53 per cent more likely to report a heart attack, and 40 per cent more likely to develop congestive heart failure. Quite simply, hunger is a health issue.
Edstrom emphasized why Meals on Wheels is a better solution than other meal delivery services she sees in Minnesota. “Meals on Wheels doesn’t just provide food,” she said. “We also provide a social connection and often serve as a safety check for our clients. Other services just leave the box of food at the door.”
There will be 684,000 seniors in Minnesota by the year 2030, and Meals on Wheels is concerned that there won’t be enough volunteers to serve their increasing needs as the years pass. In the meantime, Meals on Wheels and Hunger Solutions work in tandem to help those who don’t always know where they will get their next meal.
Currently, Meals on Wheels relies on 12,000 volunteer drivers to help their clients. If you are able to volunteer an hour and a half of your time to help with this important service, you can get more information at meals-on-wheels.com or by calling 612-623-3363.