Throughout the month of March, Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority will celebrate March for Meals and help raise awareness for its Meals on Wheels program and the homebound and vulnerable seniors who rely on its safety net.

“By volunteering, donating or speaking out, you can help ensure the seniors in your community, who rely on this program, will continue to receive healthy homemade meals and remain independent in their own homes, where they want to be. More than ever, we must join forces to help meet the needs of the fastest growing population in America,” said Penny Blakeley with Douglas-Cherokee’s Senior Nutrition Program.

Since 2002, Meals on Wheels America has led the annual March for Meals awareness campaign in an effort to fill the gap between the seniors served and those in need. That number is rapidly increasing due to an aging population.

The 2021 Community Champions Week will be celebrated between Monday, March 22 and Friday, March 26. Community Champions Week provides an opportunity to garner attention and helps raise public awareness about senior hunger. During this week, local, state and federal officials, and other prominent community figures are invited to deliver the homemade, nutritious meals to homebound seniors in the community and speak out and raise awareness.

There is no single reason for the increasing threat of senior hunger. Some of the things contributing to their problems are financial difficulties, physical limitations, mental health issues, dental problems, and food availability. These situations continue to force them to skip meals due to their limitations.

During the past year, the pandemic has been catastrophic with as many as one in every six seniors (around 8 million total) facing the threat of hunger or malnourishment. The economic burden associated with malnutrition in seniors exceeds $51 billion. Many older adults have faced difficulties recently just getting to the grocery store to buy food. Two out of three seniors report the meal they receive is up to half or more than all of the food eaten that day.

Meals on Wheels is more than just a meal. It addresses three of the biggest threats of aging: isolation, hunger and loss of independence. Frequent in-home visits and phone calls provide unique opportunities to meet nutritional needs, combat social isolation, address safety hazards and provide holistic care.

Nine out of 10 seniors say Meals on Wheels helps them to continue to live independently.

Douglas-Cherokee’s Senior Nutrition Program currently serves approximately 465 senior citizens in six counties with over 90 waiting for the opportunity to receive meals. It is projected that the program will serve $1.4 million in meals from the time the pandemic started in March through the end summer.

“It is vital now more than ever that this program receives enough support and funding to ensure that no senior in our community goes without food,” said Blakeley.

To find out how to help or for more information about the Douglas-Cherokee’s Senior Nutrition Program, call 423-318-6935 or 423-318-6936.

Animeals on Wheels Program

Douglas-Cherokee also announces the launch of the Animeals on Wheels Pet Food Program.

Pets play an important role in the lives of homebound seniors, offering daily love and companionship. The Animeals on Wheels Program helps ensure that seniors would not feel compelled to share their limited food and resources with their pets. The program helps ensure that both seniors and their pets do not go hungry by providing pet food along with home-delivered meals.

“Caring for our seniors and their pets is one of the many ways Meals on Wheels is truly more than just a meal,” said Blakeley.

Once a month, Meals on Wheels clients who have pets will receive a special delivery of pet food in addition to the daily nutritious lunches.

This program is thanks to partnerships, like those with East Tennessee Nissan.

The most urgent needs are monetary donations, as well as donations of unexpired and unopened dry dog and cat food. Volunteers are also needed to make monthly deliveries of pet food, pick-up donations, repack and organize pet food donations.

Anyone unable to deliver donations and who would rather buy the supplies online can order from Chewy.com and have them shipped directly to Meals on Wheels.

The shipping address is: Meals on Wheels, 855 Lincoln Avenue, Morristown, TN 37813.

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