“March for Meals” Puts a Spotlight on Food Insecurity Among the Aging

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Beth Shapiro, Executive Director of Citymeals-on-Wheels, took The Bronx by foot today as they delivered meals to three Citymeals-on-Wheels recipients to focus attention on the growing problems of food insecurity and malnutrition among the borough’s homebound elderly. Today’s Citymeals delivery is part of a coordinated week-long national effort called “March for Meals.”

Citymeals is a nonprofit organization that works through a public/private partnership with the New York City Department for the Aging to fund and deliver more than two million weekend, holiday and emergency meals each year to New York City’s frail aged residents.  Citymeals supplements the city government-funded weekday meal program and provides a source of nutrition to isolated elderly during times when they might otherwise go without.

Last year, Citymeals funded 348,168 meals to homebound elderly in the Bronx, including 212,324 weekend meals, 22,387 holiday meals, 89,005 emergency meals and 24,452 Mobile Food Pantry meals for those most at risk for malnutrition.

More than 60 percent of Citymeals recipients are over 80 years old; 23 percent are over 90; dozens have lived at least a century.  All recipients are chronically disabled by conditions such as vision loss, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.  Nearly all need assistance walking.  It is estimated that 66 percent use a cane, 39 percent use a walker and 16 percent use a wheelchair. Citymeals recipients are also isolated: 73 percent live alone; 40 percent rarely or never leave their homes; 8 percent have no one with whom they can talk.

Shapiro said, “Citymeals cares for 18,000 of our most vulnerable neighbors all across the city.  But our efforts go far beyond the weekend, holiday and emergency meal programs. Our volunteer initiatives provide a constant lifeline of comfort and human companionship to those who need it most.  We hope this March for Meals initiative will focus the public’s attention on the work we do, who we serve, the growing problem of food insecurity and malnutrition among the city’s elderly and why volunteerism and financial support are so critical to what we do.

“I would also like to thank Borough President Diaz for joining us today in the community and seeing, first-hand, the challenges that some of his most needy constituents face,” Shapiro added.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “I hold the Citymeals-on-Wheels program very close to my heart, as a teenager I often times delivered meals to the elderly. There is nothing more fulfilling than making sure that our seniors are being taken care of with a hot meal and company. It is the least we can do to help the pillars of our community and I am glad that through programs like Citymeals thousands of homebound seniors in The Bronx and in our City have access to a good meal and some good conversation.”

The Citymeals warehouse in Brooklyn is also an important supplier of emergency meals during times of crisis like blizzards and ice storms, hurricanes, blackouts and man-made emergencies.

Those interested in volunteering or supporting Citymeals should go to www.citymeals.org