by Photo by Sarah Berjan

Meals on Wheels San Diego County kicked off its 20th annual Champions Week campaign by collaborating with local leaders to deliver meals to senior clients in need. 

The organization has fought malnutrition and loneliness among home-bound seniors for over 60 years throughout San Diego County. 

According to Brent Wakefield, president, and CEO, Meals on Wheels San Diego County, about 50 elected officials will deliver meals throughout the county this week. 

Last year, Meals on Wheels delivered over 640,000 meals throughout the county. To date, the organization delivers 50,000 meals per month and serves nearly 2,000 clients per month at its busiest. 

“We always talk about the golden years, and that is funny because we all aspire to grow old. Not too many people grow old gracefully,” Wakefield said. “Our economy, the inflation, lack of savings, and a lot of different circumstances can have people on the edge. We all want our final stage in life to be led with dignity, peace, and happiness. We want to be part of society, and we want to be engaged. Policy and advocating for seniors is an important piece of gaining awareness to these issues.” 

To recognize the impact of the organization, Mayor Todd Gloria proclaimed March 7 through 13 to be Champions Week in the city of San Diego, further encouraging the community to volunteer. 

The COVID-19 pandemic left many older adults cut off from their family and support networks, making them vulnerable to the negative health effects of isolation. According to the organization, one in 10 seniors in San Diego experience hunger, and nearly half of San Diego County seniors live alone.

Recent figures from the federal government data show that up to 16 percent of Americans older than 65—and even more of those in hospitals or other institutions— are at high risk for malnutrition.

According to the AARP, more than eight million older adults are affected by isolation, and the physical health risks are detrimental. Researchers have found that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. 

“It's been particularly difficult for seniors who live in isolation, who struggle with a fixed income, and who need to get the nutrition so that they need to stay healthy. When you think about the last few years and how difficult it's been on that population, you understand why Meals on Wheels is more important than ever. Weeks like this are critical for drawing the public's attention to the needs of seniors, and support this organization, financially and with human power since it's a volunteer-run organization,” Gloria said.  

After issuing the proclamation, Mayor Gloria delivered a Meals on Wheels San Diego County client and Logan Heights resident, William “Bill” Kovach.

Kovach has been riding motorcycles for the last 40 years and in June of last year got into a “freak accident” while dismounting his bike, and ended up shattering his right elbow which caused immobilization for two months.

He has been on disability since then. 

Since getting the pins out, he has been working diligently with physical therapy and finally got to ride his bike down the block for the first time last Friday.

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