Hearing the call of hunger

Meals on Wheels making a difference in Johnson County

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. ~W.J. Cameron


By Sarah Pfennigs / Guest Editorial

Picture a dining room table, laden with a golden Thanksgiving turkey, buttery mashed potatoes and ruby red cranberry sauce. Two freshly baked pies – one pumpkin and one pecan – wait in the kitchen until everyone’s bellies are full, but not too full, for dessert. Glasses raised, hands clasped; there’s not a single person at the table who isn’t thankful for the bounty. It’s a veritable cornucopia of good fortune, filled with love, happiness and good tidings.

Now picture a 72-year-old gentleman, alone in his apartment. He hasn’t had a real meal in two days and a friendly face hasn’t shown up for conversation in months. His children live hundreds of miles away and rarely call. He’s unable to drive and has little to no income, making grocery shopping impossible. Friends are scarce. This isn’t just Thanksgiving Day. It’s every day.

According to the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH), senior hunger in America has grown tremendously during the past decade, with an 88 percent increase in the number of seniors affected since 2001 and a 42 percent increase since the start of the Great Recession in 2007.

Elder Services, Inc. (ESI) is working to change those numbers. In addition to its congregate meal sites (the Elderberry Café located in the Senior Center and the Solon United Methodist Church), ESI proudly offers a Meals on Wheels option for homebound individuals, whether those circumstances be because of health, disability or income.

The delivery of a hot, nutritious meal at noon is now welcomed by over 879 people in Iowa City and its surrounding communities. What once may have been an empty plate might now hold baked chicken, salad, fresh fruit and a cookie. A cupboard that used to be barren now may house bread, granola bars and cereal. A refrigerator which once held no more than a bottle of mustard now offers liquid meal supplements and milk.

Meals on Wheels is not just a hot meal anymore. Breakfast bags, which contain a week’s worth of morning meals, can also be an option, as well as the aforementioned liquid supplements for those individuals who need a little extra help in the nutrition department. Frozen dinners and shelf-stable meals are also available.

ESI is doing its part to ensure that the Meals on Wheels motto, “So No Senior Goes Hungry,” is taken to heart, and not just on Thanksgiving. Every day makes a difference.



Sarah Pfennigs is executive assistant at Elder Services, Inc. She can be reached at (319) 338-0515.