Our last blog post entitled “In the Numbers” took a hard look at demographics and speculated about how the aging of the Millennials and Gen Xers might impact senior hunger rates in the future. Today we want to return our focus to the present (and include a bit of past history) and to share some of the renewed insights NFESH experienced – and we do mean experienced – on a recent trip to West Virginia.
Over the course of the past year, under a grant from the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, NFESH has been working with Congregate Nutrition Programs in five counties of the State to implement What A Waste projects. The work has been as meaningful to us as it has been beneficial to the programs there and it, along with our travel back across the State line, hit home once again just how geographically and economically diverse this nation really is. And it riveted our attention on the impact that those factors have on the quality of life our citizens enjoy.
In particular we were made aware once again of the plight – and we use that word deliberately – that many seniors who reside in deeply remote rural areas face. We’d been there before – both literally and metaphorically – when we brought our Feeducation project to McDowell County several years ago. Last week, as then, the vestiges of poverty and need were gripping and abundant. As we rolled through sparsely populated mountain areas on our way to Charleston, the capital city, the images told the story.
Our land of plenty is riddled with need, and frequently those elders who dwell in it are largely out of sight to the majority of Americans. Out of sight? Yes. Out of mind? While we wish we could respond with a resounding “no,” too often we surmise the answer to that question is yes as well. But it should not and cannot be allowed to remain so. We at NFESH are determined to make certain that does not happen; and we credit the leadership of the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services for its dedication to the same goal for its older citizens.
We departed West Virginia in the midst of a sometimes blinding snowstorm. The white that blanketed the mountain ridges, deep gullies and rolling farm lands made the landscape even more stunning. The header photograph above, shot out of the window of our moving car, is evidence of that. The temptation could be to let that beautiful image blind us to the reality of need, to lure us away from the truth that lies below the surface. At NFESH we are resolved not to allow that to happen. Today’s disadvantaged seniors deserve better, and we know that those Millennials and Gen Xers coming down the pike will expect that…as they should.