Meals on Wheels March events raise awareness about senior hunger in Whatcom County

Who is a typical senior who depends on Meals on Wheels?

A 71-year-old Whatcom County native, Joni first called Meals on Wheels over seven years ago after experiencing worsening lung disease. Joni, who lives in a cozy manufactured home north of Bellingham with her adorable rescue dog, Maggie, says that as a single mother she used to work two jobs, “just to put beans on the table.” Now dependent on supplemental oxygen most of the time, Joni relies on Meals on Wheels meals daily. “For me it’s a blessing. People don’t realize how much energy it takes to breathe,” Joni says. “If I’m not doing so well, cooking is out. Even chewing and swallowing can be difficult.” When asked about the highlight of her experience with Meals on Wheels, Joni quickly replied, “Meeting Lenny (her Meals on Wheels driver). He’s a sweetheart.”

This week the Meals on Wheels and More Program kicks off its 3rd annual March for Meals Campaign with several community events throughout Whatcom County culminating with a health and wellness fair at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center on Saturday, March 28. While they will be marching to end senior hunger in the Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 14, March for Meals is actually a month-long campaign to promote both increased awareness of senior hunger and community engagement in the program’s efforts to support the health and wellness of local seniors.

More than just nutritious meals, Meals on Wheels and More provides social contact and nutrition case management and referral services, helping Whatcom’s most vulnerable seniors remain healthy and independent in their own homes. In the past year, Whatcom County’s most at-risk seniors depended on Meals on Wheels and More volunteers and staff to deliver more than 56,800 nutritionally balanced “Meals on Wheels” and to provide vital social contact. Whatcom seniors also enjoyed 74,600 scratch-prepared Senior Community Meals and the opportunity to catch up with friends at nine locations throughout the county. All meals are offered on a donation only basis to adults age 60 and over.

Formally known as the Senior Nutrition Program, Meals on Wheels and More is a program of the Whatcom Council on Aging, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Bellingham. Federal and local governments fund less than half the cost of Meals on Wheels and More meals. While many participants do donate toward the cost of their meals, the program depends on local community and business support to meet the demand for their services.

During this year’s March for Meals campaign, the Meals on Wheels and More Program celebrates the support of their many volunteers, donors and community partners including Dewey Griffin Subaru, the Chuckanut Health Foundation, the United Way, the Whatcom Community Foundation, Whatcom County Parks and Recreation and Whatcom Educational Credit Union. Their contributions will continue to be crucial to ensure the sustainability of the program as our population ages. They also celebrate partnerships with Whatcom Senior Centers and the many contributions of their boards, staff and volunteers. Many Whatcom businesses also support the program each year by generously donating items for March for Meals raffle baskets. This year’s baskets are filled with local treats and will be on display in the Bellingham Senior Center and at campaign events throughout the month. Raffle tickets cost $1.

For more information about March for Meals events or Meals on Wheels and More program services and volunteer opportunities, contact us at 360-733-4030 or visit wccoa.org or www.facebook.com/MealsOnWheels.WhatcomSanJuan.