For those of you who may have missed out on the high caloric intake, last Saturday night saw the sixth Annual Broward Meals on Wheel's Chocolate Extravaganza. The event, which took place at the Fishing Hall of Fame museum, gave guests the chance to sample sweet and savory finds from local vendors. Two hundred people were expected to attend.
According to PR and Marketing Coordinator for Broward Meals on Wheels Amber Van Buren, "Besides raising money, we want to raise awareness and improve the Meals on Wheels imprint in the community. Not many people know about us or our need, because we're not as high-profile as other charities. Seniors aren't sexy like kids or puppies, but many of them have given a lot to this world and now they feel like they've been thrown away."
According to a study conducted by the Meals on Wheel Association of America Foundation, one in nine seniors--that's five million people--is at risk for going hungry. "Right now, we serve 3,500 people a day. With 10,000 people turning 60 every day for the next 19 years, how are we going to serve them all?" asks Broward Meals and Wheels Executive Director Peggy Miller. "Even worse," she says, "one in five of 60- to 64-year-olds is at risk. Florida rates ninth in the nation for senior hunger."
Broward Meals on Wheels needs to raise $400,000 before the end of the year to increase services. Due to the present political climate, the group is nervous about its annual grants that keep the program going. "If sequestration goes through in December, we're going to have a major problem on our hands. There will be automatic 5 percent cuts across the board. We're not an entitlement. We get grants. We're potentially looking at cuts of 20 percent."
Sequestration refers to automatic spending cuts mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2013 that take place is Congress does not act. Given the current political climate, that would not be a surprising outcome. The program receives funding from the State of Florida's Department of Elder Affairs and the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Broward County through the Federal Older Americans Act and Fair Share Campaign.
At the moment, Broward Meals on Wheels serves 1.5 million meals a year, through meal centers and meal delivery programs. There are currently 35 dining centers in Broward County. And Broward has one of the largest catered meal programs in the county. As people are living longer, the need has grown dramatically. Currently, the organization is serving more than 35 people over 100 years old. The national statistic is that one person in 4,000 is over 100 years old.
According to Miller, "For every dollar received, we return three to four in services. The Older Americans Act is one of the most efficient government programs. Unfortunately, we don't have enough. Many older people are having to choose between rent, meds, and food. They shouldn't have to choose." Luckily, the organization did receive donations for the event--$20,000 for raffles and silent auctions. Some corporations have also been quick to give.
Broward Meals on Wheels is sponsoring an ongoing one dollar campaign. Miller says, "We have 1.8 million people in Broward County. If everyone gave us just one dollar, it would be more than enough." For more information, visit bmow.org.