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April 15, 2014

This month, Citymeals participated in “March for Meals,” a national effort to raise awareness about the growing needs of the homebound elderly, malnutrition and food insecurity. There has been a staggering 33% increase in food insecure New York seniors since 2008. Frail aged who are food insecure are 53% more likely to suffer a heart attack, 52% more likely to develop asthma and have much higher rates of congestive heart failure and coronary heart disease. Citymeals Executive Director Beth Shapiro commented on their often overlooked needs in a letter to the Daily News.

The advocacy initiative was intended to familiarize New Yorkers with these issues and show how Citymeals is meeting the needs of the elderly. Citymeals cares for 18,000 of the city’s most vulnerable residents, and our efforts go beyond preparing and delivering weekend, holiday and emergency meals. Our volunteer programs provide a continuous lifeline of companionship to those who need it most. Last year alone, more than 12,000 volunteers provided over 55,000 hours of service.

Efforts kicked off as volunteers from Macy’s gathered at our warehouse in Brooklyn. The group packed Passover boxes – each filled with eight kosher meals, including poached salmon, beef brisket, gefilte fish and stuffed cabbage – that will be delivered in time for meal recipients to observe the holiday in April.

On Wednesday, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Beth Shapiro delivered meals in the Bronx. Diaz fondly remembers providing meals for his isolated elderly neighbors beginning at age fourteen, commenting: “There is nothing more fulfilling than making sure that our seniors are being taken care of with a hot meal and company. It is the least we can do to help the pillars of our community and I am glad that through programs like Citymeals thousands of homebound seniors in the Bronx and in our city have access to a good meal and some good conversation.”

“March for Meals” culminated on Friday when New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, Commissioner for the New York City Department for the Aging Donna Corrado, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Shapiro met with seniors at the Leonard Covello Senior Center in East Harlem. McCray, Corrado and Shapiro then set out to deliver meals to the neighborhood’s homebound elderly.

Shapiro stated, “We hope ‘March for Meals’ focused the public’s attention on the work we do, who we serve, the growing problem of food insecurity and malnutrition, and why volunteerism and financial support are critical to nourishing our meal recipients. We are grateful to the Macy’s volunteers, Ruben Diaz Jr., Chirlane McCray, Donna Corrado, Gale A. Brewer and everyone who made this effort such a success.”

*Statistics from the New York City Coalition Against Hunger Report Annual Report