According to the Charities.org website, the first known Meals on Wheels delivery in the United States occurred in 1954 in Philadelphia. Today around the nation, more than 2.4 million senior citizens are served by the social program every year.
Meals on Wheels America is the oldest and largest national organization supporting more than 5,000 community-based senior nutrition programs throughout the country. More than two million volunteers deliver food and provide social visits and safety checks to seniors.
According to the website, almost nine million seniors deal with food insecurity every day in the United States. More than one in four seniors live alone, with one in five reporting feelings of loneliness. Nearly 7.4 million American senior citizens have incomes below the poverty line.
The Charities.org site also states that Meals on Wheels saves billions in taxpayer dollars for expenses such as Medicaid, health and long-term care expenses. The site says that for every $1 invested in Meals on Wheels, up to $50 is saved in Medicaid spending.
The Meals on Wheels website adds that the need for its services is expected to grow substantially within the next 40 years. One in five Americans is 60 or older, currently, with 12,000 or more turning 60 daily. Today’s average U.S. life expectancy is 79. The 2020 population in that age category is 77 million people. Meals on Wheels projects that number will rise to 93 million by 2030 and 118 million by 2060.
West Virginia’s 2020 senior population is greater than 490,000, according to the Meals on Wheels website, ranking second in the nation. Mountain State seniors are also ranked second in the country in hunger (marginal food insecurity). Their findings list 26% of West Virginia seniors living alone and 12% of them living below the poverty line. Senior West Virginians rank fourth nationally for risk of social isolation.
Meals on Wheels also says the estimated cost of one home-delivered senior meal is $9.84 and $8.85 for a congregate meal for West Virginia residents.
Along with contributions to Meals on Wheels of Charleston Inc., donations to Meals on Wheels programs can be made at mealsonwheelsamerica.org.