We live in the greatest nation on Earth. We live in the land of opportunity. We live in a land of abundance. We also live in a land that has oftentimes been blind to "the other side of the story." Not everyone in this nation has been lucky. Not everyone shares in the abundance.
I have spent fully one-third of my life working in the non-profit world in the area of elderly nutrition. I worked for an organization dedicated to providing meals to senior citizens. The Meals On Wheels network is a fine, grass-roots, community-based link for seniors needing food. There are thousands of these programs throughout the country. They do wonderful work and are committed to providing this vital service to hundreds of thousands of our Nation's seniors each year.
But there is another side of this story too. The problem is that we are not reaching all those seniors we need to, so millions are still going hungry. As a nation, we are just struggling to maintain a status quo and feed those who are already receiving Meals On Wheels. Then if more resources become available, we try to reach the others. In other words, the unmet need is growing and growing. The latest research undertaken by two of the foremost authorities in the U.S. on the issue of food insecurity among the elderly paints a very gloomy picture. In fact, Drs. Ziliak and Gunderson's findings are nothing short of alarming. The percentage of the elderly who are food insecure and facing the threat of hunger, or who are indeed hungry, have increased every year since they started doing this research for us in 2005.
Their research presents the numbers. Their research doesn't explore the "why's" nor propose the solutions. But without those answers, we as a society are doomed to continue to see a rise in the numbers of hungry seniors particularly with the huge influx of Baby Boomers. Indeed, the Ziliak-Gundersen research shows us that it is the 60 to 64-age cohort that strikingly is most at-risk of hunger.
I took a long journey in this field of senior nutrition and led a membership organization for over 20 years. It was a fascinating ride. It now comes to an end. That particular work, for me, is over.
Now I embark on a new endeavor. Now I work alongside a different group of people who will explore, probe, engage, empower, and be a voice insisting on, and helping find, answers to the questions that have eluded me for too long: just how do we end senior hunger? What paths do we walk down to seek solutions to a problem that surely has such a solution in the abundance of this country.
Going forward my colleagues and I will be the champions of exploration, discovery and solutions to ending a disease whose cure is virtually at our fingertips. As The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH), we will work with a variety of collaborators in the anti-hunger space. We will seek new partners and work with old partners side-by-side, for no one entity can accomplish these goals alone. One initiative of The National Foundation is the National Alliance of Women Against Senior Hunger, a public awareness forum comprised of some of the most amazing women in the United States. This group of dedicated women grows daily, and we will continue to raise our voices and speak out about the tragedy that is senior hunger.
Life brings us endings; it is only natural. But life, too, constantly offers promising beginnings. As I embark on this new journey of hope that we can end senior hunger, I ask you to join us in this crusade. We can end senior hunger. We must begin today.
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