Hungry seniors on rise in Georgia

by: Diana Davis Updated:

Statistics show one in six older Georgians go hungry and the waiting list for low-income seniors is getting longer and longer.

ATLANTA - Statistics show one in six older Georgians go hungry and the waiting list for low-income seniors is getting longer and longer.

Officials with Meals On Wheels Atlanta say the waiting list to help struggling seniors has reached a historic high.

Channel 2's Diana Davis talked to one man who said he waited more than a year to get help.

The local MOWA prepares balanced meals for hundreds of Atlanta seniors. About 105,000 meals were delivered to seniors last year.

At this time last year, only a couple of dozen seniors were waiting to get on the program. Now more than 200 are waiting.

"So that tells you what kind of increase we've had in a short amount of time in terms of seniors needing daily nutrition," said Meals On Wheels Atlanta Executive Director Jeffrey Smythe.

Leon White, 75, says he knows the impact first-hand.

White said he waited more than a year to get off MOWA's list. White, who is confined to a wheelchair with a long list of health problems, said he was sometimes going hungry.

"Sometimes I ate lima beans for a few days, pinto beans for a few days. I wasn't cooking a balanced meal," he said.

MOWA says younger seniors are now needing help. Some only in their 60s lost their jobs and ran out of money. Community safety nets, including churches and other charities, are also facing tough times.

"A family member or family members who were once providing for a senior are now having to move in with the senior because they've lost their jobs and don't have a place to live," Smythe said.

Just a couple of years ago, Smythe said about one in nine older Georgians went hungry. Now it's one in six.  Even with the need greater than ever, some private and public donations are drying up. It takes just $142 to pay for a month of meals for one senior.

White just got off the waiting list.

"When they finally did call me I was glad to hear from them," White said.

With so many people struggling, Meals On Wheels Atlanta hopes to increase its output from 105,000 meals prepared each year to 140,000 meals by this time next year.

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