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There is something special and sacred about the invitation into someone’s home. Of the many lessons learned in 2020, perhaps the most impactful is how much those small interactions mean to all of us. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to keep in touch while keeping safe. But let’s be honest – it’s not the same, particularly with our elders.

1 in 5 Americans are age 60 or older with 12,000 more turning 60 every day. Seniors have been especially at risk for complications from COVID-19. In the midst of the pandemic, many of our most vulnerable neighbors have had to sacrifice visits from friends and family. Such visits are some of the strongest connections that our homebound seniors have to our community.

In March of 2020, the world around us ground to a halt. Schools closed, businesses shut down, and most of us sheltered in our homes for weeks. Yet our local Meals on Wheels program kept moving. The essential staff at the Southeast Ohio Foodbank & Kitchen had their stoves on and their engines running, preparing and delivering meals to 280 homebound seniors throughout Athens and Hocking Counties. Drivers were able to communicate safely with seniors through windows, porches, and phone calls.

In addition to marking 1 year of the pandemic, March is also senior nutrition month. In March of 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into measure a national nutrition program for our America’s seniors.  We celebrate this measure every year with “March for Meals,” a national campaign for our nation’s Meals on Wheels programs. No one could have predicted what we would be facing nearly 50 years later, but our nation’s senior nutrition programs have proven to be a thread that keeps our communities together.

Meals on Wheels has always been more than just a meal. The delivered meals are a safety check, a source of wellness, and a sense of community for our seniors who have given us so much. My mother was a Meals on Wheels driver in Portland, Oregon, so this program is deeply personal for me. I was raised with the value of listening to our seniors and the stories they have to tell.

We connect with the entire community when we connect with our senior citizens. We hear about the past, we are grounded in the present, and we think about our own place in the future. I am proud to serve as a March for Meals Community Champion, and I encourage my community to support the needs and the legacies of our local seniors.

Steve Patterson

Mayor of Athens

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