ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 12, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- On August 11, Vice Admiral Dr. Vivek Murthy, the 21st Surgeon General of the United States, gave an address at the Meals on Wheels Virtual Conference, hosted by Meals on Wheels America, the national leadership association dedicated to addressing senior hunger and isolation. Speaking to representatives of 331 local, community-based senior nutrition programs from across the country, Dr. Murthy delivered a powerful message acknowledging the vital role Meals on Wheels programs have played for decades to help alleviate hunger and address struggles with loneliness among the older adults they serve, all of which has been amplified throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Long before the pandemic, you were already working to confront the profound challenge of isolation. Then, of course, came COVID-19. Physical distancing led to social distancing…And for millions of older Americans, hunger and loneliness grew," said Dr. Murthy, speaking to the resilience of the Meals on Wheels network. "Overnight, you pivoted to meet those needs, even when they were harder to meet than ever before."
Dr. Murthy has devoted much of his career to tackling some of the nation's most urgent health issues, including the loneliness epidemic. Prior to COVID-19, one in four older adults lived alone and one in four was lonely. Many of the factors that make older adults more susceptible to social isolation and loneliness were commonly found among individuals receiving Meals on Wheels. With the onset of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of additional seniors became at risk of social isolation in a relatively short amount of time and turned to Meals on Wheels to provide services, including essential social connection and companionship.
"It would've been easier to close your doors when the pandemic came, but you opened them wider. It would've been easier to close yourself off to the struggles of those who needed you, yet you opened your heart even further. You should feel proud of the courage and commitment you brought to the frontlines of this crisis," said Dr. Murthy.
"We are beyond grateful to Dr. Murthy for sharing his time and his messages of hope and strength with our national network. In his address, the Surgeon General said that our ability to sustain our work lies in one of Meals on Wheels' most fundamental values – putting people first. And that's exactly how I know local programs will continue to make their communities stronger, nourished and more connected – by putting people first, one older adult at a time," said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America.
ABOUT MEALS ON WHEELS AMERICA Meals on Wheels America is the leadership organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network serves virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits, and safety checks that enable America's seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. By providing funding, leadership, education, research, and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time.