Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, a major Las Vegas nonprofit, has been seeing an overwhelming surge in the number of seniors seeking home-delivered meals amid the coronavirus crisis.
The program which provides these free home-delivered meals to seniors in need, Meals on Wheels, would normally have around 300 people on its waiting list. Last month, it was seven times that amount with 2,400 joining the waiting list.
According to Tom Roberts, Catholic Charities President and CEO, he said he’s never seen anything like this demand in his over eight years with the company, calling it ‘unprecedented.’
He also mentioned that donations have decreased by around 50 percent.
“There are a lot of people who are really struggling,” Roberts said.
While the COVID-19 situation has certainly added to the surge of meal requests in the valley’s various nonprofits, there was already an increase in demand of seniors seeking out food assistance.
Why? It has to do with Las Vegas’ growing populations and longer lifespans of seniors.
Nevada One of the Fastest Growing States in the Country
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nevada was the nation’s fastest-growing state in 2018. Not only that, but the retirement-age population also boomed to 149,000 residents between 2010 and 2018.
In the Census Bureau July 2017 estimate, 14.5 percent of Las Vegas’ near 645,000 residents are 65-years-old or older.
Here’s the breakdown of residents 65+ across the valley:
Las Vegas: 15.7 percent
Henderson: 19.1 percent
North Las Vegas: 10 percent
Boulder City: 30.4 percent
Seniors Struggle Most with Food Insecurity Compared with Other Age Groups
According to Jodi Tyson, vice president for strategic initiatives at Three Square food bank, seniors generally struggle more with food insecurity over age groups due to the fact that most of them are on fixed incomes.
Tyson says that they typically have to consider “spending trade-offs” so that they can afford to pay for other necessities, such as housing, medication, and doctor’s visits.
Defeat Malnutrition Today, a nonpartisan coalition, said in a statement this Monday that across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the risk of poor nutrition and health to increase among the elderly.
“Malnutrition leads to more health-related complications and falls for older Americans, while protein malnutrition in particular contributes to longer hospital stays and higher rates of death,” said Bob Blancato, national coordinator for Defeat Malnutrition Today.
He urged Americans to collectively do their part to “protect the older adults in our lives from becoming malnourished during this crisis.”
Meals on Wheels, A Highly Sought-After Service
Since 1975, the Meals on Wheels program has been serving seniors in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.
The highly sought-after program has always, according to Roberts, had a waiting list of 200-300 seniors. Case managers prioritize the list based on need and those who are immobile or have serious health issues.
Roberts added that seniors are often “silent sufferers” of hunger in the valley. “It breaks my heart that that level of demand and need is out there,” Roberts expressed.
Seeking Help for Increased Demand
Roberts advised that Catholic Charities has reached out to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Aging and Disability Services Division and informed them of the greatly increased demand for meals.
The Aging and Disability Services Division is one of the agencies that help fund Meals on Wheels.
Catholic Charities Faces Another Big Problem Amid Coronavirus Crisis
It hasn’t been an easy month for Catholic Charities. Besides the current surge of demand for senior meals they’re facing, their overnight homeless shelter was forced to close its doors after a homeless man and one of their employees tested positive for COVID-19.
The shelter, which can accommodate around 516 men, shut down for a week. For that week, a parking lot outside of Cashman Center was used as a makeshift shelter and had white lines marked on the ground to indicate social distancing guidelines.
Catholic Charities overnight shelter reopened on April 1.
Meals on Wheels Programs Across Southern Nevada
Besides the Meals on Wheels program offered at Catholic Charities, there are two more Meals on Wheels programs provided by the city of Henderson and the Boulder City Senior Center. A few other senior centers have also caught on and began offering delivery or pick-up meals.
Has the demand for meals increased for the other cities providing meals to seniors? Not in the same way.
According to Lacey Scarpa, assistant executive director at the senior center in Boulder City, their program serves between 30-60 seniors. Since the outbreak, that number has stayed “pretty much the same.”
Their food pantry has however doubled in the past month. In an effort to help seniors in the community during these challenging times, the Boulder City senior center has been delivering meals to more than 75 seniors outside of the program.
Other Nonprofits Helping Out During This Time of Need
Nonprofits across the valley have been a wonderful source of help during this time of need.
In response to the economic downfall created by the coronavirus pandemic, Three Square food bank collaborated with the Clark County School District to create an emergency food fund. Together, they’ve created 43 distribution sites spread in different areas of the valley.
Three Square also contacted those seniors who were present at their two in-person meal offerings and asked if home-delivered groceries were needed.
Since mid-March, they’ve delivered groceries to 1,600 with the help of the Regional Transportation Commission.
At SHARE Village Las Vegas, they’ve spread out their food pantry services for the entire week to meet the demand of those seeking out food assistance.
About Catholic Charities
Serving some of the most vulnerable members in our community with dignity, hope and compassion is always at the core of our mission at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada (CCSN). With this in mind, the agency is taking additional steps to enhance the safety and protection practices for the thousands of men, women, families and children who rely on our services each day.
Donate to Meals on Wheels
Vulnerable seniors are at the greatest risk amid COVID-19. Local Meals on Wheels programs are on the front lines every day, focused on doing all they can to keep older Americans safe and nourished in communities across the country. The costs and efforts needed to protect seniors from COVID-19 require additional emergency funds, and that is why we are asking federal lawmakers, corporations, foundations and the general public to remember these vulnerable seniors in our national response.
From their official website. To learn you can help, visit their page.
While it’s hard to see many seniors in the Las Vegas area struggling to secure food, we’re happy that there are organizations and programs in the local community that are stepping up to help those with the most need during these challenging times.
What acts of generosity and kindness are you seeing in your local area? Has someone helped you or have you helped someone else during this time of need? We’d love to hear your stories below.
Stay together Nevada, and stay strong.