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A study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture found in 2014, 3.0 million (9%) households with seniors age 65 and older experienced food insecurity. (Read the report here) Unfortunately, according to an article published by feedingamerica.org (Read article here) the number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase 50% by 2025 as the youngest members of the baby boomers generation reaches age 60.
Many seniors in our community experience food insecurity every day and therefore rely on the Catholic Charities Senior Dining Program to ensure they receive a wholesome meal daily. It is important the seniors in our community have the opportunity to receive these meals in order to stay healthy and remain independent in their homes. In an article published by the National Institutes of Health titled “Eating Well as You Get Older” (Read article here) it is noted there are many benefits listed to eating well as we age. These benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kids of cancer, anemia and more. The article also states if you have one of these chronic diseases, eating well can assist you in managing the disease. There are also additional benefits to eating well such as increasing energy levels, managing body weight and more!
Many seniors in the area consider themselves fortunate to have Catholic Charities’ Senior Dining Sites and Meals on Wheels program providing services in 47 communities in Central Minnesota. In 2015, the Catholic Charities Senior Dining and Meals on Wheels programs served 2,198 seniors in Central Minnesota. Whitney Senior Center, which hosts the two Catholic Charities programs for the St. Cloud area, served nutritious meals to over 1,150 older adults in 2015.
Saint Joseph resident, Jack Schuh, eats at the Catholic Charities Senior Dining site at Whitney Senior Center five days per week. Jack has been enjoying a meal daily at Whitney Senior Center since the passing of his wife in 2000 and states “the [senior dining] program is a lifesaver for people who lost their spouse”. He also claimed “there’s always someone to visit with and I don’t like to eat alone”. Jack elaborated saying he often eats with the same group of people each day and has built many friendships through the dining site at Whitney Senior Center. For Jack and many area seniors, the dining site provides more than just a nutritious meal; but also the social interaction and connectedness they crave. Jack raved about the quality of the food at the Whitney Senior Center dining site saying “the cook is the greatest and the volunteers who help in the kitchen are the best!” Upon asking Jack if there was anything else he would like to add regarding his experience with the Catholic Charities Senior Dining program at Whitney Senior Center he simply said “great food and great people.”
As Jack mentioned there are many volunteers who play a vital role in the production and success of both the Catholic Charities Senior Dining Program and Meals on Wheels Program. The Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) (Lisa J. Braun, Director) provides volunteers to ten of the Catholic Charities Senior Dining sites including the site at the Whitney Senior Center. RSVP also provides volunteer drivers who transport nourishing meals (via the Meals on Wheels program) to seniors in the community depending on one wholesome meal per day.
In 2015, RSVP provided 129 volunteers to the Catholic Charities’ senior dining sites throughout Central Minnesota and these volunteer served 11,914 hours! RSVP volunteers are essential to guaranteeing the Senior Dining Sites operate at the capacity necessary to serve our community’s older adults. If you are interested in volunteering as a Meals on Wheels driver or lending a hand at one of the area’s Senior Dining sites please contact RSVP at (320)255-7295 to get more information about available positions or visit RSVP online at www.ci.stcloud.mn.us/RSVP.