Atlanta's seniors face 'unprecedented' hunger crisis: how you can help

More elderly people are currently facing hunger in Atlanta than at any time since 1965, according to one local nonprofit. 

Just over 600 seniors are on Meals On Wheels Atlanta’s waitlist for meals, an unprecedented number since the organization's founding in 1965.

"It’s record-breaking for us," MOWA’s CEO Charlene Crusoe-Ingram said. We’ve never had that many seniors on our waitlist. It’s really driven by our food costs." 

Meals On Wheels Atlanta CEO Charlene Crusoe-Ingram (right) and creative director Brandon Jenkins (left) pose for photos at the 3rd annual TASTE event May 31, 2024.  (Kim Evans Photos)

Crusoe-Ingram explained that inflation has increased food prices as much as 30%, and this is putting Atlanta’s elderly in a vulnerable position. Many of them must choose between food, necessary medication, and utilities. 

"We’re just trying to keep up, and we’re not keeping up," Crusoe-Ingram said of the senior hunger crisis. 

Of the seniors MOWA does feed, 70 percent rely on the organization as their only source of food. MOWA provides those seniors with two nutritional meals a day, made by the organization's in-house culinary team and delivered by MOWA and hard-working volunteers. They deliver up to 525,000 meals to seniors each year, 1,800 meals a day. MOWA also operates a free emergency food pantry, pet food pantry, home repair program and companionship. 

"We’re feeding those seniors that we have, we’re committed to that," Crusoe-Ingram said. "As we get more funding in, we’ll take seniors off that waitlist." 

A key part of MOWA’s funding strategy now revolves around recruiting and retaining Atlanta’s young professionals. 

"We want them to come, volunteer, and evolve into donors eventually," Crusoe-Ingram explained. 

And if the first of MOWA’s four annual charity events, TASTE, is any example, it seems MOWA may well be on its way to targeting the city’s young professionals and getting them to care about the current hunger crisis. 

One Atlanta native and content creator Myles Barrineau attended last year's TASTE event and was invited back this year as an official influencer for TASTE. 

"I love to support any mission to give back to Atlanta's community," Barrineau said. "I think it's so important to look out for one another as neighbors, especially our seniors who have paved the way for so much growth and opportunity in this city."

More than 500 people attended TASTE: A Recipe For Change, Friday, May 31. This was the third year that TASTE united chefs across Atlanta to provide bites for attendees as well as honored 10 Influential TASTEmakers for their devotion to making a change in the Atlanta community.

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Guests enter MOWA's 3rd annual TASTE event, adorned with meal boxes like those delivered to seniors May 31. 2024. (Kim Evans Photos)

Young professional and Atlanta content creator Morgan Tolley attended this year's TASTE event and said she was recently introduced to MOWA. 

"I am a pharmacist with the VA by day and see firsthand the nutritional struggles elderly veterans face. It was so encouraging to find an event that is raising awareness, encouraging community support, and highlighting the importance of access to nutritious meals so that no senior goes hungry," she said. 

The goal of the night was to help eliminate the 600 seniors from MOWA’s meal delivery program waiting list. This year, TASTE raised more than $150,000, an event record. MOWA plans to raise the remaining $3 million needed to erase the 600 seniors on their waitlist by the end of this year with fundraisers like A Meal To Remember Gala. 

MOWA’s leaders stress that anyone can volunteer to deliver meals, donate needed pantry items, or donate money. And when it comes to donations, $7 feeds an Atlanta senior a meal, $14 covers the two daily meals that are delivered to them. Any amount helps, especially for people who may not be able to afford to give much. 

"Go online, donate $20, $25. What we love, especially for young donors to do, is to make a monthly commitment," Crusoe-Ingram explained. "Have that sustaining amount come out of their paycheck every month. It adds up, it counts, and we appreciate it." 

MOWA's next fundraising event is the Meals On Wheels Atlanta Golf Classic scheduled for Tuesday, September 17, 2024.